Kansas High Court: Public Schools Aren't Funded Equally

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW/AP) The Kansas Supreme Court says the state's current public school funding levels are unconstitutional.

In Friday's much-anticipated ruling, the court said Kansas' poor school districts were harmed when the state made the decision to cut certain payments when tax revenues declined during the Great Recession.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruling can be found at this link:

The court also sent the case back for more review to determine what the adequate amount of funding should be.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by attorneys representing four school districts and parents. They alleged that the state reneged on promises made in 2006 to provide a certain level of funding to Kansas public schools. Those promises were made in a settlement of a lawsuit filed against the state in 1999.

As a result of that lawsuit, in 2005, the Court ordered lawmakers to boost school funding $143 million. The ruling led to a 12-day special legislative session to reach agreement on a funding bill. The Court ruled the measure complied with its order, but kept the case until after the 2006 session. Justices then issued a 4-2 decision, stating a bill boosting spending by more than $540 million over three years met the state's responsibility to adequately fund schools.

However, subsequent reductions in spending led to a new lawsuit. Attorneys for the state argued that legislators did the best they could to maintain education spending after a recession that began in 2008 reduced available revenues.

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement Thursday ahead of the ruling.

"I have repeatedly stated and believe funding schools is the most important thing state government does," Brownback said. "The centerpiece of my agenda for the 2014 legislative session is to increase Kansas’s investment in all-day Kindergarten, which is long overdue and a true path forward."

The Democrat challenging Brownback in this fall's gubernatorial election, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, also looked ahead to the court's decision.

"Kansas parents, kids, teachers and business leaders don't need a court order to tell us to fund our schools," Davis wrote in his statement. "Providing our kids with a world class public education is both a moral and constitutional obligation, which is why I offered a plan two years ago to restore school funding. Governor Brownback rejected it, causing class sizes to grow and fees on parents to increase. This discussion is long overdue."

More reaction following Friday's ruling:
Compiled by The Associated Press

``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.''

- The state Supreme Court, from its ruling.

``Simply put, the Kansas constitutional command envisions something more than funding public schools by legislative fiat.''

- The state Supreme Court, from its ruling.

``I'm happy to see the court is requiring the Legislature to comply with the constitution ... We, as parents and as citizens of Kansas, have to follow the constitution, and it's not too much to ask, for them to do it, too.''

- David Morantz, a Leawood attorney and father of three public school students.

``No matter what this ruling had been today, I truly believe that our funding system needs an overhaul.''

- Rep. Kasha Kelley, a Republican from Arkansas City

``There's no need to wait for additional rulings. What we need to do now is move forward together and make the necessary funding available in a responsible manner. We don't need threats to cut funding to vital social services, rob retirement pensions and cut aid to higher education. Public school students are still sacrificing and the solution is obvious. Simply, find a responsible way to fund all public schools adequately as promised.''

- The Kansas National Education Association, from a statement issued after the ruling.

``I see that we have to go around the block again.''

- John Robb, an attorney for the plaintiff school districts after the court kicked the case back to a lower court to study ways to increase funding.