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Kansas Lawmakers Sound Off On State Supreme Court's School Funding Decision

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Kansas Public Radio
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that the state is not funding public schools fairly and must change.

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 Sen. Jeff Melcher criticized Thursday’s ruling.

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

Democratic Rep. 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,'" Ward said. "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," Merrick said. "I guess that doesn’t apply when they want to get involved in our business.”

Republican Rep. 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," Rooker said. "I don’t believe that we have met our constitutional obligation."

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.

As the Kansas News Service managing editor, I help our statewide team of reporters find the important issues and breaking news that impact people statewide. We refine our daily stories to illustrate the issues and events that affect the health, well-being and economic stability of the people of Kansas. Email me at skoranda@kcur.org.
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