As educators and interested parties around the state wait for the Kansas Supreme Court to hand down its latest decision in the Gannon school finance case, it feels like there’s not much time on the clock.
“It is important to remember, the oral arguments were only about two weeks ago, May 22nd,” said Mark Tallman, Vice-President for Advocacy with the Kansas Association of School Boards. “Of course, this is the schedule that the court had set. Depending on the complexity of the issue, getting an agreement by the majority of justices and writing that decision and concurrences or dissents on a complex case like this certainly would be expected to take some amount of time.”
The importance of the decision may fuel a longer search for consensus, as well.
“You have to get to at least a majority of the Court,” said Tallman. “In school finance in Kansas, somewhat to me, remarkably, every decision that I can remember, the entire Court has signed on to the main finding. There have been some dissents of parts of things in the past. Some justices in the past, for example, would have perhaps said they would go farther, but there really hasn’t been the split decisions that we see at the federal level sometimes.”
The other important thing to remember is that the Supreme Court is an appellate court, so its rules regarding how it uses evidence are somewhat different than a trial court and if it feels that more trial record is needed, it could send the case back down for that work.
“These are very complex decisions involving how finance formulas work and involving the interplay of different branches of government and somewhat unknown territory as to what the remedies even are in this case,” said Tallman. “It is complex. Last year, I think it’s worth noting, that the oral arguments were held in August or early September and the decision came out in early October. These are often 80 to 100 page decisions.”
The Court typically releases its decisions on Friday mornings. There are three Fridays between now and the June 30 deadline.