A path to ending Gannon is proposed

Plaintiff districts in the school finance lawsuit have provided a proposed path to end the long running litigation. 

John Robb, lead attorney for Schools for Fair Funding, said the Gannon case could end if the Legislature increases K-12 funding by $364 million over the next four years.  

That amount represents what the State Board of Education has said is needed to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court ruling to apply an inflation adjustment to the recently approved phased-in increase of $522 million in school funding.  

Robb said the additional funds must be applied to state base aid that goes to all students. “The base hits everyone and addresses the problem the court identified … inflation during phase in,” he said. 

He said the state would also have to agree that the court should retain jurisdiction in the case through the phase-in period. 

On Saturday, during KASB’s 2018 Annual Conference, Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson and Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis spoke about the possibility of ending the school finance dispute early in the 2019 legislative session, which starts Jan. 14. 

Watson and Dennis said if the Legislature agreed to the increase recommended by the State Board, then they said they believed the plaintiff school districts would accept the plan. 

Asked to respond, Robb wrote in an email: “Yes. 1. Fund the State Board $364M. 2. Put it on the base. (This is important.) 3. Appropriate enough to run the formula. 4. Stipulate with us that the court should retain jurisdiction through the phase in. We done. Should then go to the court as stipulated fix like the equity fix at end of 2016 special session.” 

Commissioner Watson said the additional funding could be used to invest in programs for students and raise the average salaries of Kansas teachers, which currently ranks 40th in the nation. 

“This would be tremendous, if we could get this done early,” Dennis said.  

Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has said school finance and addressing the court decision would be her top priority when she proposed her first budget. While Kelly faces many budget challenges, state revenue has been exceeding expectations for the past year and a half.  

In June, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the new school finance formula could be constitutional if an inflation adjustment were added. The court gave the Legislature until April to submit a proposed solution.

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