The Kansas Supreme Court, in the public school finance case of Gannon v. State, held the State has shown that the 2019 Legislature’s scheduled base aid increases are in substantial compliance with the court’s June 25, 2018, mandate. This is the court’s seventh decision in the Gannon litigation.
In 2018 the court had held that despite legislation enacted in 2017 and 2018, the State still had not met its burden of complying with the adequacy requirements of Article 6, section 6(b) of the Constitution of the people of Kansas. That section obligates the Legislature to “make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”
But even though the State had not met its burden, the court acknowledged in 2018 the State had expressed an intent to comply with the education adequacy threshold discussed in a 2006 school finance case, Montoy v. State. In what it referred to as its “Montoy safe harbor” plan, the State reasoned that if it returned to the basic funding formula approved in Montoy for school year 2009-10 and fully funded that formula—including accounting for years of inflation—it would again reach a constitutionally adequate funding level.
After careful analysis, the 2018 court accepted the State’s Montoy safe harbor approach. But it held that to satisfactorily address the remaining concerns with adequacy, the State needed to make timely financial adjustments in response to two specific inflation problems. The court stayed the issuance of the mandate more than one year—until June 30, 2019—or further order of the court for the State to resolve the identified inflation problems with its plan.
In response, the 2019 Legislature passed House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 (S.B. 16) in an effort to cover inflation with additional funding and thus complete its Montoy safe harbor remediation plan. On April 6, 2019, Governor Kelly signed S.B. 16 into law. The court today held that through S.B. 16’s additional funding of the State’s safe harbor plan—specifically the annual increases to base aid in the amount of about $90 million per year for four years—the State has substantially complied with the court’s 2018 mandate.
Although holding that S.B. 16’s schedule for additional funding substantially complies with the mandate, the court retains jurisdiction to ensure continued implementation of the plan.