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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Montoy v. State, Docket 92032
June 3, 2005

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.

RE: Appeal No. 92,032: Montoy v. State

The Supreme Court today unanimously ordered school funding for the coming school year to be increased no later than July 1 from approximately $142 million appropriated by the 2005 Legislature to $285 million above the past school year's level of funding.

The figure is one-third of the $853 million amount recommended by a consulting firm retained by the 2001 Legislature to determine the cost of educating students in Kansas.

"The case is extraordinary, but the imperative remains that we decide it on the record before us," the Court said in the decision. The State cites no cost study or evidence to rebut the 2001 study by Augenblick & Myers, the consultants retained by the Legislature. "Thus the A&M study is the only analysis resembling a legitimate cost study before us."

"Accordingly, at this point in time, we accept it as a valid basis to determine the cost of a constitutionally adequate public education in kindergarten through the 12th grade. The alternative is to await yet another study, which itself may be found legislatively or judicially unacceptable, and the school children of Kansas would be forced to further await a suitable education." The Court noted that the present suit was filed in 1999.

The Court also said a suggestion by the State Board of Education that the 2005 legislation be accepted as an interim step toward a full remedy is initially attractive, but arguments by the plaintiffs and numerous "friends of the court" briefs present compelling arguments for an immediate fix. "They remind us that we cannot continue to ask current Kansas students to 'be patient.' The time for their education is now," the Court wrote.

However, in deference to a Legislative Post Audit cost study analysis mandated by the 2005 session, the "implementation beyond the 2005-06 school year will be contingent upon the results of the study and this opinion."

"Further, if (1) the post-audit study is not completed or timely submitted for the legislature to consider and act upon it during the 2006 session, (2) the post-audit study is judicially or legislatively determined not to be a valid cost study, or (3) legislation is not enacted which is based upon actual and necessary costs of providing a suitable system of finance and which equitably distributes the funding, we will consider, among other remedies, ordering that, at a minimum, the remaining two-thirds ($568 million) in increased funding based upon the A&M study be implemented for the 2006-07 school year."

"Clearly, the legislature's obligation will not end there; the costs of education continue to change and constant monitoring and funding adjustments are necessary. H.B. 2247's provisions regarding establishment of the 2010 Commission and mandating annual increases based upon the Consumer Price Index may satisfy these demands, but the legislature may seek other means to assure that Kansas school children, now and in the future, receive a constitutionally adequate education.

"In addition, . . . the new funding authorized by [the 2005 session] regarding the increased Local Option Budget authority over 25 percent, the cost-of-living weighting; and both extraordinary declining enrollment provisions are stayed." The Court left the remainder of the legislation intact.

The Court said it "readily" acknowledges that "our present remedy is far from perfect; indeed, we acknowledge that it is merely a balancing of several factors." Among the factors the Court listed are:

  • The ever-present need for Kansas school children to receive a constitutionally adequate education.
  • The role of the Court as defined in the Kansas Constitution
  • The need for the legislature to bring its school finance legislation into constitutional compliance, with acknowledgment of the unique difficulties inherent in the legislative process.
  • And the press of time caused by the rapidly approaching school year.

"Accordingly, we retain jurisdiction of this appeal. If necessary, further action will be taken by this court as is deemed advisable to ensure compliance with this opinion," the Court concluded.