Archive for Monday, January 3, 2005

Kansas Supreme Court: Legislature must fix school finance law

April 12 deadline given by court

January 3, 2005

The Kansas Supreme Court today said the $2.7 billion state school finance system is unconstitutional and gave the Legislature until April 12 to fix it.

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" ... the present financing formula increases disparities in funding, not based on a cost analysis, but rather on political and other factors not relevant to education," the 10-page unanimous decision stated.

The court was acting on a lower court ruling that declared unconstitutional Kansas' method of distributing state school funds.

In December 2003, Shawnee County State District Court Judge Terry Bullock said the finance system shortchanged all students by nearly $1 billion, but especially under-funded schools with high populations of minority students and students with disabilities.

The Kansas Supreme Court overturned parts of Bullock's decsion - ruling that school finance system was not a violation of civil rights as Bullock had said.

But the state's highest appeals court upheld Bullock's ruling that the Legislature had failed to meet its constitutional obligation "to make suitable provision for finance" of the public schools.

The high court further stated that legislators must fulfill their constitutional duty. The court said it would stop proceedings in the case to give the Legislature "a reasonable time to correct the constitutional infirmity in the present financing formula."

"To ensure the Legislature complies with our holding, we will withhold our formal opinion until corrective legislation has been enacted or April 12, 2005, whichever occurs first, and stay the issuance of our mandate in this case," the court said.

The lead attorney for the school districts that filed the lawsuit against the state applauded the Kansas Supreme Court decision.

"Touchdown," said Wichita attorney Alan Rupe.

"The Kansas Supreme Court is going to be sitting on top of the Legislature to make sure that schools are funded equitably and adequately," Rupe said.

Check back to this site for updates today. And see 6News reports on Sunflower Broadband channel 6 at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.
The Mirror's Wednesday edition will have reaction from Tonganoxie educators and state legislators.

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