State leaders weigh in on school funding decision

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly is calling the state Supreme Court's decision on school funding "a victory for Kansas and our kids."

Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaks to reporters, Monday, April 22, 2019, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kansas. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

On Friday, the high court ruled state lawmakers met the constitutional requirement for adequate funding for schools. They had previous decided in favor a plan for equitable school funding.

"Educating our kids is not just one of the best ways to address challenges facing our state, it's also our moral and constitutional obligation," Kelly continued in a tweet soon after the verdict was announced.

Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) criticized the Justices for not closing the case altogether after ruling lawmakers met the state constitution's adequacy requirement.

“The Kansas Legislature must now make sure the additional funding delivers real results for our students. We must improve our graduation rates and ensure that our students are prepared for college, technical school, or the workforce when they graduate,” Wagle added.

The top Democrat in the Senate, Anthony Hensley, on the other hand, called the Court hanging on to jurisdiction an "imperative."

"The Kansas Legislature has a notoriously bad reputation of not keeping its commitment to K-12 education," he said.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park) echoed Wagle satisfaction with funding decision he was "happy" with the verdict and thanked his fellow lawmakers for "working hard to solve this problem."

"With the school litigation behind us it's on to the next agenda item, medicaid (sic) expansion," Denning said.

The attorney who represented four local public school districts in the case, Alan Rupe, said he is disappointed in the result. He is promising to continue monitoring the state's education funding in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling.

But Rupe said it's a "huge victory" that the Supreme Court declined to end the lawsuit so that the justices can ensure that the state keeps its funding promises. Rupe said the districts will go back to the Supreme Court if they feel the state is not meeting its commitments.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said he would have preferred if the case had been closed.

"At some point a lawsuit has to end," Schmidt said. "We thought that point should have been now, the court disagreed, and so we'll of course follow the rule that they've laid down."

He added he anticipates that it will now be possible for his office to move on to other issues.

The state Board of Education, meanwhile, thanked the Governor, Justices, and legislators for "their work and commitment to ensuring Kansas public schools are properly funded and Kansas students have access to quality public education."

The Board said the Supreme Court decision recognizes the urgency of changing the culture of education and will allow schools to redesign themselves to prepare students to for success in high school and beyond.

"The needs of today’s students and workforce have changed dramatically over the years and so too must our education system," it said.

It emphasized the importance of early childhood education, social-emotional growth, career exploration, and civic engagement as well as allowing students more choice in how they learn and at what pace.