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Kansas Supreme Court Says Schools Not Funded Fairly

Photo by Stephen Koranda
Photo by Stephen Koranda

The Kansas Supreme Court says the state is not funding public schools fairly and has given the legislature until the end of June to fix the problem. If lawmakers don’t comply, the high court threatens to close public schools.

Republican Senator Jeff Melcher criticizes Thursday’s ruling.

“It’s not unexpected. It’s essentially a temper tantrum by the courts to push their political will on the Legislature. It’s one of those things where ‘give us the money or the kid gets it,’” says Melcher.

Democratic Representative Jim Ward says lawmakers should immediately start working to address the problem. 

“Put reasonable people in the room and say how do we address the financial crisis that has created all these problems, one of which is not funding schools equitably. And then, how do we fund schools equitably?” says Ward.

The court is overstepping its bounds, according to Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick. He says appropriating money is a job for lawmakers.

“A couple weeks ago they talked real loud about the separation of powers. I guess that doesn’t apply when they want to get involved in our business,” says Merrick.

Republican Representative Melissa Rooker says the courts are doing their job by interpreting state law, and she says the solution is probably more funding for schools.

“Their ruling today affirms my own personal beliefs and voting habits. I don’t believe that we have met our constitutional obligation,” says Rooker.

Merrick called the timing of the ruling questionable, as it came out the same day both chambers are voting on budget plans. A spokeswoman for the courts says the ruling was released Thursday because it was ready.

Stephen Koranda is KPR's Statehouse reporter.