EQUITY AND SETS HIGH STANDARD FOR ADEQUACY
Today the Kansas Supreme Court, in the face of heavy political pressure from
opponents of fair school funding, upheld the right of Kansas students to educational
opportunity and reaffirmed the court's own pivotal role in upholding the Kansas
Constitution, in Gannon v. State.
In a decision that gives all parties a firm and clear road map going forward,
the court explains the constitution's requirements for equitable and adequate
resources for all of the state's schoolchildren. The court upheld a unanimous
court ruling, in favor of plaintiffs.
"This is a watershed moment in Kansas history," declared David Sciarra, Executive
Director of the Education Law Center (ELC). "The court continues to fulfill
its responsibilities as the last resort guarantor of constitutional rights."
Equity is a long-standing, hallmark value in Kansas education. The court reiterated
the Kansas requirement that all "school districts must have reasonably equal
access to substantially similar educational opportunity through similar tax
effort." States that perpetuate gross inequities, like New York and Illinois
should take lessons from Kansas.
Adequacy in school funding is also required by the Kansas Constitution, and
the court set out a more detailed definition than ever before, in giving the
plaintiffs the opportunity to present even more evidence, if needed, for their
adequacy claim. The court held that cost-based funding is an important component
of adequate funding.
"In a thorough and thoughtful decision, the Kansas Supreme Court quotes the
Texas Supreme Court, extensively, and references other state high courts in similar
cases, such as those in Kentucky, Tennessee, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and
others," observed Molly Hunter, Director of Education Justice at ELC.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil
and Human Rights said, "It's now up to Governor Brownback and the legislature
to respect the court's mandate to fully and equitably fund Kansas schools.
Any attempts to strip the court of its authority or to further undercut the
potential of Kansas' youth would be an assault on public integrity and undermine
the rule of law in the state."
This Kansas ruling continues the over 20-year nationwide trend by state courts
in vindicating students' state constitutional rights to education.