Kansas Supreme Court finds state underfunds schools

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By Karen Pierog and Tracy Rucinski

<span class="articleLocation”>The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that
the state’s system of funding primary and secondary public
schools falls short of an adequacy requirement in the state
constitution.

The high court said it was delaying enforcement of its
unanimous ruling until the end of June to give the legislature
time to respond.

It warned that if the state fails to come up with a funding
system that complies with the constitution by the June 30
deadline, the court will move to void the current method of
school finance.

Kansas spends more than $4 billion a year on schools, with
most of the money coming from the state general fund. During
oral arguments before the court in September, lawyers for the
four districts that filed the lawsuit claimed another $430
million to $1.4 billion would be required to meet the state
constitution’s requirement for adequate funding.

“It is incumbent upon the legislature to react to the ruling
quickly and in a way that puts the funding levels into
constitutional compliance,” said a statement from Alan Rupe, an
attorney representing the plaintiff school districts.

The ruling comes at a bad time for the Kansas budget. Tax
cuts enacted in 2012 have gouged a hole in the budget as revenue
failed to meet monthly estimates, although February marked a
fourth straight month that collections met or exceeded
projections.

A move in the state legislature to boost revenue by raising
tax rates and eliminating a business exemption failed last week
when the Senate was unable to override Governor Sam Brownback’s
veto.

S&P Global Ratings cited the state’s structural budget
pressures and reliance on one-time revenue measures when it
revised the outlook on the state’s AA-minus credit rating to
negative from stable last month.



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