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Kansas Supreme Court: Legislature Has Until June 30th to Fix School Funding Problems

Dark clouds gather above the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka. (Photo by J. Schafer)

The Kansas Supreme Court has given the Legislature a deadline to come up with a school finance plan that is both equitable and adequate. That deadline is June 30. The marching orders came down in a much anticipated ruling on adequacy, which was part of a school funding lawsuit. Education reporter Sam Zeff, of the Kansas News Service, sat down with editor Amy Jeffries to explain the ruling and what happens next.

That’s education reporter Sam Zeff, of the Kansas News Service, speaking with editor Amy Jeffries. Governor Sam Brownback released a statement on the ruling, saying the state’s old school funding formula – the one that pre-dated the block grants – had “failed” the students of Kansas. Brownback said he’ll measure the success of a new formula not by the dollars spent but by student performance.

Find more coverage on this story here.


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on a Kansas Supreme Court ruling on public school funding (all times local):

6 p.m.

The Kansas Legislature's top leaders say a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding won't require lawmakers to change course on drafting a new school finance law. Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said their chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature already were working on a new school funding law before the court's decision. The court said the state isn't adequately funding its schools and lawmakers must enact a new education funding law by June 30. Wagle and Ryckman put a positive spin on the court's decision by saying it recognized the Legislature's power to set school funding policy and appropriate money. While the court said the state's current funding is inadequate, the justices did not specifically say how much spending needs to increase.

5:15 p.m.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is calling on legislators to enact school choice measures in response to a state Supreme Court ruling directing the state to increase its spending on public schools. The conservative Republican governor said in a statement Thursday that the GOP-controlled Legislature has an opportunity to engage in what he called "transformative educational reform." Brownback said lawmakers should write a new school funding formula that puts students first and focuses on performance. But he added that the state should give parents of struggling students a greater say over their children's education. He said if parents do not believe a public school is best, they should have the resources to make other choices. The governor was not more specific about what school choice measures he advocates.

4:20 p.m.

Kansas' attorney general says a state Supreme Court ruling suggests that lawmakers should concentrate on helping underperforming students by boosting spending on public schools. Attorney General Derek Schmidt called Thursday for a "bold legislative response" to comply with the court's order in a lawsuit filed by four school districts against the state in 2010. The high court said the state's funding for public schools is not adequate but did not say how much more lawmakers must provide. In its decision, the court noted that about a quarter of the state's students aren't proficient in reading and math with higher percentages for minorities. Schmidt said such a statement implies that underperforming students should be lawmakers' main focus in crafting a new school funding formula before the court's June 30 deadline.

1:40 p.m.

Several parents say they're pleased with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that directs the state to increase spending on its public schools. Taunia Ross from the Kansas City suburb of Olathe said Thursday that additional state dollars would improve schools and parents would not have to pay as much in fees. She is the mother of four children aged 8 to 22. Angie Sutton of Ottawa in eastern Kansas said legislators "absolutely" should be spending more on schools. She's the mother of a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old. In Wichita, community activist Djuan Wash pointed to the court's finding that a significant percentage of minority students aren't proficient in reading and math. Wash says such problems help create a cycle of poverty. Wash is the father of a 9-year-old daughter.

12:10 p.m.

Attorneys for four Kansas school districts that are suing the state to increase school funding say the state Supreme Court's new ruling will require a funding boost of at least $800 million per year. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the state isn't spending enough money on its schools to provide a suitable education to every child, which the state constitution requires. The justices did not set a specific figure for how much more the state must spend a year. Attorneys Alan Rupe and John Robb say the ruling suggests that the increase must be sizeable because it affirmed a lower court panel's findings that spending was inadequate. Rupe and Robb represent the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts. They used the state in 2010.

11:15 a.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court has ordered the state to increase its spending on public schools, but it didn't say by how much. The court ruled Thursday that legislators must enact a new education funding law by the end of June. The decision comes with the state already facing projected budget shortfalls totaling more than $1 billion through June 2019. Lawmakers are considering rolling back steep income tax cuts championed by Republican Governor Sam Brownback. The justices ruled in a lawsuit filed by four school districts in 2010. They argued that legislators were violating the state constitution by failing to finance a suitable education for each of the state's 458,000 students. The districts argued for an $800 million increase in the state's $4.1 billion in annual aid.

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