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Kansas Supreme Court Rules School Funding Formula Unconstitutional


The Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously Friday that the state needs to increase funding for public K-12 schools, but sent the decision back to the Shawnee County District Court to enforce.

The Supreme court dismissed claims from individual plaintiffs in Gannon v. State of Kansas but ruled school districts had standing to bring the claims. The court also rejected the state's argument that the court had no authority to decide whether or not the Kansas Legislature had underfunded education.

The Supreme Court set a July 1 deadline to give the Kansas Legislature an opportunity to respond. 

Gov. Sam Brownback didn't immediately respond to the ruling, but plans to have a briefing on the decision later Friday.

The Shawnee School districts and parents filed the lawsuit in 2010. The 63 districts allege the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to education and that it had gone back on funding promises made in 2006.

The allegations were made after a court ruling following a similar lawsuit.

A district court ruled last year in favor of the school districts, saying Kansas needed to increase school funding by at least $440 million. The state appealed that ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state of Kansas have argued that lawmakers did the best they could to maintain education spending but they had to make cuts after the recent recession.

During that time, Kansas, led by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, cut taxes in an effort to promote economic growth. The move further reduced the amount of money available to the state to fund education.

Over the past few months, Republican legislative leaders have threatened to ignore court rulings ordering more funding. They say it’s the legislature’s responsibility, not the court’s, to set funding levels.

Kansas now spends about $3 billion a year on education.

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