Kansas Districts Make Final Arguments

Last Updated: September 26, 2012

This article appeared in the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.

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A three-judge panel in Kansas heard closing arguments in the Gannon school funding lawsuit in late August. The arguments were presented more than eight weeks after testimony in the trial ended.

Lawyers for the 54 plaintiff school districts argued that costs and requirements have gone up while funding has gone down. But the state’s attorney said that the 16% cuts to education in recent years are “insignificant” and that funding the schools at levels authorized by the legislature under a previous court order would have a “disastrous effect on the economy.” He also characterized potential court actions on the case as “acting like a super Legislature.”

When one of the judges asked how the legislature could enact tax cuts estimated to cost the state $2.5 billion in revenues by 2018 at a time when school funding was so far below recommended levels, the state’s lawyer answered the court should not get involved in budget and tax decisions.

The state had argued that a “suitable” education was demonstrated when schools met accreditation standards. But plaintiff attorneys used the number of students failing reading and math assessments as evidence that the standard was not being met. Notably, Kansas was one of the states that received a waiver from No Child Left Behind this summer.

Dr. Bruce Baker, author of the CAP report also featured in this month’s RSFN, served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in this case and also conducted a study of the current state of Kansas school finance.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a law that dropped the state’s top income tax bracket from 6.45% to 4.9%, significantly reducing projected revenues.

A decision is expected in the next several months and will likely be appealed.

Editor’s note: see previous RSFN coverage here.

Read more:

Local coverage:

Plaintiff attorney website with a number of resources on the case:

Report from Bruce Baker on Kansas school finance:

Read more from the September 2012 Rural Policy Matters.