Kansas Districts Will Go Back to Court

Last Updated: January 28, 2010

This article appeared in the January 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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The school district coalition, Schools for Fair Funding, has decided to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to reopen the Montoy school funding lawsuit. The coalition represents more than 140,000 students and is comprised of some 70 districts, including Wichita, the state’s largest district and Cheylin, its smallest. The group had been contemplating this action in the context of continuing cuts to education.
In 2006, the Court ordered the state to increase aid to public schools over a 3-year period. But current funding has dropped to 2006 levels.
Governor Mark Parkinson has proposed increasing the state’s sales tax from 5.3% to 6.3% to avoid additional cuts. He also proposes raising the cigarette tax by 55 cents per pack.
Opponents of the suit say that, overall, cuts to school funding have been smaller in the last year than cuts to other state programs. Lawyers for the school districts have pointed out that even after the 2006 court order, the Kansas Legislature made tax cuts that prevented revenues from meeting the required levels.
The Kansas state funding system was found unconstitutional at trial in 2003. The Supreme Court affirmed this decision several times and ordered the legislature to conduct a study of school funding needs. In 2006 when the 3-year funding plan was enacted the Court dismissed the case.
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