Here’s our take. The good news. 1. The court did not dismiss the case based on a legal issue called standing as the State had asked. 2. The court did not dismiss the case based on a legal issue called “justiciability” and instead held that the Court can issue decisions on school funding. 3. On the question of equity, the Court found that the State created unconstitutional wealth-based disparities by eliminating all capital outlay state aid (“equalization”) payments, LOB and supplemental general state aid payments and required the legislature to address these issues by July 1. 4. The Court did not rule against the plaintiffs on the state funding adequacy claim.
The “dream deferred” news. The court remanded evaluation of the adequacy of state funding. It told the lower court to analyze Kansas funding using “capacities” set forth in a Kentucky case, Rose v. Council for Better Educ., Inc., (set out on p. 68 of the Kansas opinion), noting that the Rose standards match goals set forth by the Kansas legislature and appear to have been adopted by the legislature. It specifically warned that a future legislature should not attempt to lower these standards by simple majority vote. It said that the lower court may choose to reopen the record, or not. It also said that the lower court should look at all sources of funding, but also stated it “may consider the restrictions on the use of these federal, pension, and other funds and determine that even with the influx of these additional monies the school districts are unable to use them in the manner necessary to provide adequacy under Article 6. But regardless of the source or amount of funding, total spending is not the touchstone for adequacy.” We believe the court will eventually conclude that funding levels, especially as they pertain to operating budgets, are too low.
Here’s a collection of articles on today’s decision:http://cjonline.com/news/state/2014-03-07/supreme-court-kansas-funding-unconstitutional-equity-grounds;http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/07/4872119/kansas-supreme-court-change-school.html (inaccurate headline but good text),http://www.kansas.com/2014/03/07/3330863/kansas-supreme-court-sends-school.html,http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2014/mar/06/court-announce-school-finance-ruling/,http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/kansas-high-court-rule-school-funding-suit-22812894,http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/08/us/kansas-school-spending-ruling.html?_r=0.