The Gannon vs. State of Kansas
case (2010 to present)...
Gannon vs. State of
Kansas was filed against the State of Kansas on November 2, 2010. It
alleges that the State has violated the Kansas Constitution by not
adequately funding Kansas public schools. It came just a little more
than four years after its predecessor case, Montoy, was
concluded. The conclusion of the Montoy case included a three
year funding plan adopted by the legislature in 2006 to cure the
"blatant violation" of the Kansas Constitution found at trial. Before
the three year plan could even complete implementation, the State cut
school funding by over $511 million per year, resulting in the Gannon case
The Gannon lawsuit went to trial on June 4, 2012,
before a three judge panel in Topeka. The case was tried by Alan Rupe,
John Robb and Jessica Skladzien.
Evidence was presented over five weeks, with 17
days of trial, 662 exhibits, totaling 18,727 pages, and 44 witnesses.
The trial generated 3,672 pages of transcript testimony for the record.
The court found that money does make a
difference, contrary to the testimony of the State’s expert witnesses
and the preachings of the Kansas Policy Institute. The court found
“Studies in Kansas have shown that money does
make a difference. In the LPA study, a 1% increase in district
performance outcomes was associated with a .83% increase in spending –
almost a one-to-one relationship.”
“In truth, and in fact, it appears that the
Kansas Legislature... wholly disregarded the considerations required to
demonstrate a compliance with Article 6....”
“An educational system that permits these
results is neither fair, nor balanced, nor in the public interest.
More importantly, in Kansas, such an educational system is not
“[W]e still believe... that Plaintiffs have
established beyond any question that the State’s K-12 educational system
now stands as unconstitutionally underfunded.”
“It seems completely
illogical that the State can argue that a reduction in education funding
was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state's
diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further, thereby
further reducing the sources of revenue on the basis of a hope that
doing so will create a boost to the state's economy at some point in the
Upon appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court,
the school finance formula was again found unconstitutional on equity
grounds. Further trial work was ordered on the adequacy portion of the
case. In 2014 the legislature purportedly remedied the unconstitutional
equity provisions by adding $130M in additional funding. After the 2014
elections, the legislature then backtracked and reduced funding again.
The trial court took evidence in May of 2015 and again declared the
school finance system unconstitutional on both equity and adequacy
grounds. The matter is now back at the Kansas Supreme Court on both
The Petrella vs. Brownback case
A group of parents from
the Shawnee Mission U.S.D. 512 school district filed suit in the U.S.
District Court in Kansas City on December 10, 2010, alleging that the
statewide cap on Local Option Budgets discriminated against the Shawnee
Mission school district and was unconstitutional.
The suit seeks to
convert the statewide school funding scheme into a local funding scheme,
where each school district would have to fare for itself in school
funding. The parents’ suit alleges that the State “underfunds the
Shawnee Mission school district” and “deprives district residents of the
right to spend as much of their collective resources as they are willing
to commit through the mechanism of local taxation.”
SFFF viewed the
suit as a direct attack on the equity in the current school finance
formula that would shift the statewide school finance burden onto local
property taxpayers rather than the state as a whole. Kansas Courts have
consistently held that the responsibility to fund the education of
children in Kansas does not fall on the local district, but rather on
the state as a whole. Vastly different district wealth across the state
requires that limits be placed on wealthy district spending. It is a
violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas and U.S.
Constitutions to make the education of a child a function of or
dependent upon the wealth of the district in which the child resides. A
local wealth-based funding scheme is clearly unconstitutional.
SFFF students were
granted leave to intervene in this suit to defend the equity in the
The parent suit was then dismissed by the trial court on March 11, 2011.
The parents then filed an appeal of this dismissal to the 10th
Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
The 10th Circuit heard arguments in
the fall of 2011 and reversed the dismissal on October 18, 2012, sending
the matter back to the trial court for further proceedings. The reason
for the reversal was for error in dismissing on technical “standing to
bring suit” grounds. The 10th Circuit did not speak to the
merits of the suit.
On remand the trial court issued a decision
dismissing many of the Petrella plaintiffs' claims and setting the
standard by which the rest of the case would be judged. The Plaintiffs
then appealed this ruling to the 10th Circuit for a second time. The
10th Circuit affirmed the trial court and sent it back to the trial
court for dispositive motions. The Petrella plaintiffs have now asked
the United States Supreme Court to intervene and accept the appeal.
Schools For Fair Funding, was formed in October 1997.
Adequacy and equity lawsuits were filed in both federal and state
courts in 1999.
The state case, Montoy, went to trial before Judge Terry
Bullock in the fall of 2003.
Trial lasted 8 days producing a 1400 page trial
transcript and 9,600 pages of exhibits. The plaintiffs
presented 19 witnesses and 169 exhibits while the defense
presented 5 witnesses and 102 exhibits.
Judge Bullock found:
"the current school funding scheme stands in blatant
violation of Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution
the following three separate and distinct aspects in that:
It fails to equitably distribute resources
among children equally entitled by the
Constitution to a suitable education or in the
alternative to provide a rational basis premised in
differing costs for any differential;
It fails to provide adequate total resources
to provide all Kansas children with a suitable
education (as that term has been defined by both
this Court and the Legislature itself); and
It dramatically and adversely impacts the
learning and educational performance of the most
vulnerable and/or protected Kansas children."
The Kansas Supreme Court affirmed Judge Bullock and set off a
constitutional crisis between a legislature that refused to do its
constitutional duty and a Supreme Court that insisted on compliance
with the Kansas Constitution.
There are five (5) Supreme Court decisions in the Montoy
saga over a period of only a little more than a year- January 2005
to July 2006
The legislature finally was forced to increase education funding
annually in Kansas by $755.6M. This was over a 20% increase in
Much of the funding increase was targeted to at-risk
kids, who cost more to educate.
The Montoy effort took the group to the United States District Court in
Wichita, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver (twice), the
Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, En Banc, the United States
Supreme Court, the Shawnee County District Court, the Butler County
District Court and the Kansas Supreme Court (six times.)
The lobbying effort mounted by the group spanned nine (9) years
and ten (10) legislative sessions, including an historic special
legislative session devoted solely to school finance in 2005.
The effort has been called the most significant court case in
The SFFF group remains very active in a watchdog role, with
counsel and lobbyists engaged to influence and monitor school