Gannon v. State, No. 109,335.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Kansas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM:
Citation298 Kan. 1107,319 P.3d 1196
Docket NumberNo. 109,335.
Decision Date07 March 2014
PartiesLuke GANNON, by his next friends and guardians, et al., Appellees/Cross-appellants, v. STATE of Kansas, Appellant/Cross-appellee.

298 Kan. 1107
319 P.3d 1196

Luke GANNON, by his next friends and guardians, et al., Appellees/Cross-appellants,
v.
STATE of Kansas, Appellant/Cross-appellee.

No. 109,335.

Supreme Court of Kansas.

March 7, 2014.






Held Unconstitutional
West's K.S.A. 72–6434, 72–8814

[319 P.3d 1202]



Syllabus by the Court

1. The Kansas Constitution is the work of the people. In their constitution, the people have distributed governmental power among three departments or branches, i.e., the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. Under this separation of powers, the judiciary interprets, explains, and applies the law to actual controversies. It is the judiciary's obligation to interpret the constitution and safeguard the basic rights reserved to the people. Determining whether an act of the legislature is invalid under the people's constitution is solely the duty of the judiciary. The judiciary is not at liberty to surrender, ignore, or waive this duty.

2. Under the separation of powers doctrine embodied in the Kansas Constitution, Kansas courts do not issue advisory opinions but decide actual cases or controversies, i.e., the claims must be justiciable. If the claims are not justiciable, the case must be dismissed.

3. Whether a claim is nonjusticiable because it may be a political question is solely for the courts to decide as a matter of law by applying the factors identified in Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962).

4. Under the facts of this case, the school districts' claims arising under Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution present a justiciable case or controversy because they are not political questions.

5. Because constitutions are the work of the people, the best rule for ascertaining their intention is to abide by the language they have used. It is reasonable to presume that every word in the constitution has been carefully weighed, and that none are inserted, and none omitted, without a design for so doing.

6. Through the constitutional assignment of different roles to different entities, the people of Kansas have ensured that the education of public school children is not entirely dependent upon political influence or the constant vigilance of voters.

7. Through Article 6, the education provision of the Kansas Constitution, the people expressly assigned duties to the Kansas Legislature that both empower and obligate. Under this article, the legislature must perform its duties in compliance with the requirements the people have established.

8. The Kansas Constitution clearly leaves to the legislature the myriad of choices available to perform its constitutional duties under Article 6. But the judiciary is the final authority to determine adherence to constitutional standards. The people's constitutional standards must always prevail over the legislature's statutory standards should the latter be lower.

9. Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution contains at least two components: adequacy and equity.

10. To determine compliance with the adequacy requirement in Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, Kansas courts apply the test from Rose v. Council for Better Educ., Inc., 790 S.W.2d 186 (Ky.1989), which establishes minimal standards for providing adequate

[319 P.3d 1203]

education. More specifically, the adequacy requirement is met when the public education financing system provided by the legislature for grades K–12—through structure and implementation—is reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the standards set out in Rose and presently codified in K.S.A.2013 Supp. 72–1127.

11. Under the facts of this case, the district court panel did not apply the correct test to determine whether the State met its duty to provide adequacy in K–12 public education as required under Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. Therefore partial reversal and remand is required for the panel to make an adequacy determination, complete with findings, after applying the correct test to the facts.

12. Regardless of the source or amount of funding, total spending is not the touchstone for adequacy in education required by Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution.

13. To determine compliance with the equity requirement in Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, Kansas courts do not require adherence to precise equality standards. Instead, school districts must have reasonably equal access to substantially similar educational opportunity through similar tax effort.

14. Under the facts of this case, the district court panel correctly held the State established unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities by withholding all capital outlay state aid payments to which certain school districts were otherwise entitled under K.S.A.2012 Supp. 72–8814(c).

15. Under the facts of this case, the district court panel correctly held the State established unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities by prorating and reducing supplemental general state aid payments to which certain school districts were otherwise entitled under K.S.A.2012 Supp. 72–6434 for their local option budgets.

16. Under the facts of this case, the district court panel correctly refused to order payment of capital outlay state aid to which districts were otherwise entitled for fiscal year 2010 and correctly refused to order payment of plaintiffs' attorney fees.


Stephen R. McAllister, solicitor general, argued the cause, and Jeffrey A. Chanay, deputy attorney general, M.J. Willoughby, assistant attorney general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the briefs for appellant; Arthur S. Chalmers, of Hite, Fanning & Honeyman, LLP, of Wichita, argued the cause, and Gaye B. Tibbets, Jerry D. Hawkins, and Rachel E. Lomas, of the same firm, were with him on the briefs for appellant/cross-appellee.

Alan L. Rupe, of Kutak Rock, LLP, of Wichita, argued the cause, and Jessica L. (Garner) Skladzien, of the same firm, and John S. Robb, of Somers, Robb & Robb, of Newton, were with him on the briefs for appellees/cross-appellants.


Autumn L. Fox, of The Law Office of Autumn L. Fox, P.A., of Abilene, and Lawrence S. Lustberg, of Gibbons, P.C., of Newark, New Jersey, were on the brief for amicus curiae Education Law Center.

Dr. Walt Chappell, of Educational Management Consultants, of Wichita, was on the brief for amicus curiae Educational Management Consultants.

Robert E. Keeshan, of Scott, Quinlan, Willard, Barnes & Keeshan L.L.C., of Topeka, was on the brief for amicus curiae Emporia Unified School District 253.

Donna L. Whiteman and Lori M. Church, of Kansas Association of School Boards, of Topeka, were on the brief for amicus curiae Kansas Association of School Boards.

David M. Schauner, of Kansas National Education Association, of Topeka, was on the brief for amicus curiae Kansas National Education Association.

PER CURIAM:

This is a “school finance” case that concerns Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution as well as various Kansas educational statutes. They include K.S.A. 72–6405 et seq. (School District Finance and Quality Performance Act or SDFQPA) and K.S.A. 72–8801 et seq. (capital outlay levy).

[319 P.3d 1204]

The defendant, the State of Kansas (appellant/cross-appellee), appeals from various holdings by a three-judge district court panel. The panel's holdings included a determination that the State violated Article 6 when the legislature underfunded K–12 public education between fiscal years 2009 and 2012, as well as a related determination that the legislature failed to consider the actual costs of providing a constitutionally required education before making its funding decisions. Its holdings also concluded that additional constitutional violations occurred because the legislature either withheld or reduced certain funding to which school districts were statutorily entitled. The panel enjoined the State from taking certain actions regarding school finance legislation.

The plaintiffs, U.S.D. No. 259, Wichita; U.S.D. No. 308, Hutchinson; U.S.D. No. 443, Dodge City; and U.S.D. No. 500, Kansas City, along with 31 individuals named in the pleadings as students and their guardians, cross-appeal from a number of the panel's holdings. Among other things, they contend the panel was wrong when it rejected education as a fundamental right under the Kansas Constitution, denied their substantive due process and equal protection claims, and refused to order the State to make “capital outlay state aid” payments for fiscal year 2010 to which many districts were entitled by statute. They also complain the panel set “base state aid per pupil” at only $4,492 for fiscal year 2014 and denied their claims for attorney fees.

After the panel presided at a 16–day bench trial that produced a 21,000–page record, it issued a 250–page memorandum opinion and entry of judgment. Since then, approximately 800 pages of briefs have been filed by the parties and by five amici. The briefs contain numerous issues and arguments which we have consolidated.

At the outset, we hold the panel correctly ruled the individual plaintiffs do not have standing to bring any claims, and the plaintiff school districts do not have standing to bring their equal protection and due process claims. As for the districts' claims arising under Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, we hold those claims are justiciable because they are not political questions. But we also hold the panel did not apply the correct constitutional standard in determining the State violated the Article 6 requirement of adequacy in public education. So we remand that issue to the panel to apply the standard articulated in this opinion and to make additional findings.

As for the capital outlay funding claims, we hold the panel correctly ruled that the State created unconstitutional, wealth-based disparities by withholding all capital outlay state aid payments to which certain school districts were otherwise entitled under K.S.A.2012 Supp. 72–8814(c). We additionally hold the panel correctly refused to order payment of...

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146 practice notes
  • Campaign for Quality Educ. v. State, A134423
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2016
    ...Justice in Educ. Funding, Inc. v. Rell (2010) 295 Conn. 240, 990 A.2d 206, 210–256 (plur. opn. of Norcott, J.); Gannon v. State (2014) 298 Kan. 1107, 319 P.3d 1196, 1216–1231 ; Abbeville County Sch. Dist. v. State (2014) 410 S.C. 619, 767 S.E.2d 157, 163–180 ; McCleary v. State (2012) 173 W......
  • Creecy v. Kan. Dep't of Revenue, No. 117,035
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • August 23, 2019
    ...and that he or she personally suffers some actual or threatened injury as a result of the challenged conduct.’ " Gannon v. State , 298 Kan. 1107, 1123, 319 P.3d 1196 (2014) (quoting Sierra Club , 298 Kan. at 33, 310 P.3d 360 ). KDR argues essentially that Creecy has no standing because he i......
  • Roll v. Howard, No. 121,447
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • December 11, 2020
    ...most favorable to the prevailing party, disregarding conflicting evidence or other inferences that might be drawn. See Gannon v. State , 298 Kan. 1107, 1175-76, 319 P.3d 1196 (2014).In paragraph 27 of its factual findings, the district court summarized the evidence it relied on for its dete......
  • Petrella v. Brownback, Nos. 13–3334
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • June 1, 2015
    ...Court reaffirmed that “[e]ducation in Kansas is not restricted to that upper stratum of society able to afford it.” Gannon v. State, 298 Kan. 1107, 319 P.3d 1196, 1239 (2014) (per curiam).Displeased with the outcome of school finance litigation in state court, plaintiffs, parents of student......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
146 cases
  • Campaign for Quality Educ. v. State, A134423
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2016
    ...Justice in Educ. Funding, Inc. v. Rell (2010) 295 Conn. 240, 990 A.2d 206, 210–256 (plur. opn. of Norcott, J.); Gannon v. State (2014) 298 Kan. 1107, 319 P.3d 1196, 1216–1231 ; Abbeville County Sch. Dist. v. State (2014) 410 S.C. 619, 767 S.E.2d 157, 163–180 ; McCleary v. State (2012) 173 W......
  • Creecy v. Kan. Dep't of Revenue, No. 117,035
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • August 23, 2019
    ...and that he or she personally suffers some actual or threatened injury as a result of the challenged conduct.’ " Gannon v. State , 298 Kan. 1107, 1123, 319 P.3d 1196 (2014) (quoting Sierra Club , 298 Kan. at 33, 310 P.3d 360 ). KDR argues essentially that Creecy has no standing because he i......
  • Roll v. Howard, No. 121,447
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Kansas
    • December 11, 2020
    ...most favorable to the prevailing party, disregarding conflicting evidence or other inferences that might be drawn. See Gannon v. State , 298 Kan. 1107, 1175-76, 319 P.3d 1196 (2014).In paragraph 27 of its factual findings, the district court summarized the evidence it relied on for its dete......
  • Petrella v. Brownback, Nos. 13–3334
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit
    • June 1, 2015
    ...Court reaffirmed that “[e]ducation in Kansas is not restricted to that upper stratum of society able to afford it.” Gannon v. State, 298 Kan. 1107, 319 P.3d 1196, 1239 (2014) (per curiam).Displeased with the outcome of school finance litigation in state court, plaintiffs, parents of student......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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