Could Brownback K-12 plan be a legal maneuver?

Jan 20, 2015

Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed to scrap the state's K-12 funding formula.
Credit Topeka Capital-Journal

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing to ditch the state’s K-12 funding program reports the Topeka Capital-Journal. 

Brownback is recommending lawmakers abolish the K-12 funding formula and replace it with more than $3 billion in block grants while the Legislature writes a new formula.

Bruce Baker is a school finance professor at Rutgers University.  The former Kansan says it could be a legal maneuver to escape litigation.  Baker says giving something a new name, calling it a different formula, even when it’s not can be presented in court as an argument to dismiss a case. That forces plaintiffs to file a new lawsuit in a lower court because the formula specified no longer exists.

Ranking minority member Sen. Laura Kelly says she has no doubt “it is a maneuver—probably for more than one reason.”  Kelly says one reason is force school districts to spend down contingency funds.  The other may be to get out of the Gannon case.

House Speaker Ray Merrick supports the governor’s proposal.  He says block grants “will give school districts the money and the flexibility they need while a new formula is developed.” 

Merrick didn’t address the approach being a legal tactic.