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Kansas School Finance Order Appealed To State Supreme Court

Kansas Attorney General's Office

As expected, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt quickly appealed Friday's court ruling finding most of the block grant funding law unconstitutional and ordering the state to make millions of dollars in back payments to school districts by Wednesday.

In a statement, Schmidt said a three-judge Shawnee County District Court panel broke new legal ground with its order, "including attempting to reinstate laws that the Legislature repealed months ago."

The language in the appeal takes the court to task. Schmidt called the order "cynical, calculated and unfortunately political" because the panel "issued its decision on the very day and barely one hour after the Legislature finally adjourned."

Schmidt asked for an immediate stay. The panel ordered the state to pay almost $50 million in aid owed to many districts across Kansas by the start of the new fiscal year.

Schmidt called the panel's finding that block grant funding was unconstitutional "another unprecedented and remarkable move." He said the order looked "precisely like a bill 'markup' that takes place in the legislative process." 

The lead attorney for the plaintiff school districts, including Kansas City, Kansas, says he will urge the high court to let the order stand. "We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will not stay the Panel’s order, which will result in additional damages to Kansas schoolchildren," says Alan Rupe of Wichita.

Conservatives never liked the old school funding formula in Kansas. They said it was too complicated and out of date. The two year block grants were designed to be a bridge between the old formula and a new one yet to be written by lawmakers. The grants freeze funding for districts at the current amounts. Republicans, including Gov. Sam Brownback, say this will provide stability for districts as they craft future budgets.

Most districts opposed the block grants saying they provide no additional funds if their student populations grow.

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