Many states mandate that schools must be funded at constitutionally required levels, but like many Republicans, Kansas GOP leaders disregarded the Kansas Constitution and deliberately underfunded the state’s public schools to both provide tax cuts for the wealthy and keep their population ignorant. Fortunately for Kansas residents and students, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Friday that the state must increase funding for public K-12 schools. The Court’s ruling gutting Brownback’s education plan was a victory for parents, school districts, and students who sued Brownback who has spent the past four years significantly cutting per student funding while cutting taxes for the rich and corporations. One of the lawyers representing the school districts, John Robb, welcomed the Court ruling and said, “The constitution protects education. It does not protect tax cuts.”
Brownback and his group padded education costs by illegally including teacher retirement benefits and pensions as part of the “per student” spending and made them “part of the whole” of state education costs. In the state budget, pension funds and school finance formula are separate line items, but Brownback decided they were one in the same to give credence to his claim that Kansas spends more on education now than it did in 2000. According to Kansas deputy education commissioner for fiscal and administrative services, legislators decided that school districts would be required to show pension funds as part of their budgets regardless the revenues came from the state. Brownback’s defense was that school districts had no standing to bring their claim before the courts, as well as arguing that the Supreme Court had no right or authority to decide whether or not the Kansas legislature deliberately underfunded public education with the retirement benefits and pensions scheme. The Court’s ruling disabused Brownback of the argument he and Republicans were above reproach and immune from a judicial review of an unconstitutional practice.