Kansas Plaintiff Districts Will Begin a New Lawsuit

Last Updated: February 25, 2010

This article appeared in the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

Editor's note: Links are free and current at time of posting, but may require registration or expire over time.

The Kansas Supreme Court has decided not to reopen the Montoy funding case to address severe underfunding of schools, saying that such a move is only to be used “in extraordinary circumstances” and “as the last resort.”

Schools For Fair Funding, a coalition of 74 school districts had asked the state’s high court to consider two questions: “Was the unconstitutional school finance system remedied by the Kansas Legislature’s funding increases in 2005 and 2006?” and “Are the current education funding cuts constitutional?”

In its decision, the court emphasized that it was not making a ruling on any of the substantive issues raised in the case, only on procedural concerns. The plaintiffs had asked that the case be sent back to a state district court, but the decision noted the plaintiffs would accomplish the same thing by filing a new lawsuit.

John Robb, general counsel for Schools For Fair Funding, said, “We are disappointed in the ruling but certainly not deterred. The problem still exists. Kids are still being short-changed. The constitution still requires suitable funding for education. Today’s ruling was a procedural one which will just slow us down a bit.”

Alan Rupe, trial counsel for Schools For Fair Funding, said, “It was a long shot. There was no statutory procedural mechanism to re-open a closed case. And there was very little court precedent to support re-opening the case. But the school districts and Schools For Fair Funding are committed to fight for their school kids’ right to adequate funding. The future of public education demands a new lawsuit”

In response, Kansas Senate subcommittee approved by a 6–5 vote Concurrent Resolution 1621, which would ban public funding for school finance lawsuits. The attempt to scold school districts for supporting finance litigation does not include an enforcement mechanism.

In other news, the Kansas Legislative Post Audit released a report this month to encourage additional district consolidation. The report is officially policy-neutral and noted potential problems with consolidation because many districts could lose more money in state funding than they would save by projected savings in operating expenditures. The issue will likely not be addressed during this session.

Read more:

Lawsuit coverage:

Coverage of the Senate Resolution on funding of lawsuits:

Coverage of Post Audit Report:

Read more from the February 2010 Rural Policy Matters.