DALLAS — The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday said it would reject a request from a coalition of school districts to reopen a lawsuit that led to increased state support of public education.
Schools for Fair Funding, which included 72 of the 293 Kansas school districts, asked the court to reopen the case, Montoy v. State of Kansas, after recent budget cuts reduced state aid to local districts.
The court ruled in 2005 that the education funding formula developed by the Legislature was unequal and relied on a flawed formula influenced by political considerations and not educational needs.
After the 2006 Legislature developed a multi-year plan to increase funding, the court said the state was in compliance with its earlier ruling and dismissed the case.
Remanding the case would simply send it to a lower court, Chief Justice Robert E. Davis said in the four-page ruling. “There is nothing the plaintiffs are seeking that they cannot accomplish by filing a new lawsuit,” Davis said.
The base state aid per pupil climbed from $4,257 in 2006 to $4,316 in 2007, $4,374 in 2008, and $4,400 in 2009. However, declines in state revenue have resulted in cutbacks in public education to $4,012 per student this school year.
John Robb, one of the attorneys for the group of school districts, said the plaintiffs intend to file a new suit this summer. The original case, which began in 1999, questioned the equity of the state’s allocation of aid to local districts, but Robb said the contemplated new case would focus on the adequacy of the state funding.
Davis said in the ruling released Friday that the court did not base its decision on the merits of the coalition’s request for a rehearing of the case.
“The power to recall a mandate is an extraordinary power to be used as a last resort,” he wrote. “It should only be used to accomplish something that, without it, cannot otherwise be remedied. That is not the situation here.”
State aid to public education had increased by $600 million since the case was dismissed four years ago, but budget cuts in 2009 reduced school funding to pre-2006 levels.
A determination of whether the financing formula complies with the state constitution must be litigated in a lower court in a new case, the court said Friday.