Friday, March 7, 2014

These are the basics on today's Kansas Supreme Court school finance decision

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM

click to enlarge The Kansas Supreme Court issued a split decision on school finance on Friday.
  • The Kansas Supreme Court issued a split decision on school finance on Friday.
The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday morning dropped its long-awaited decision on whether Kansas violates the state constitution for elementary and secondary education financing.

The decision is 110 pages long and does not represent a simple, concise summation of the situation. What we have here are the basics of the decision.

For some background on the issues leading up to the decision, check out our story from Thursday.

* Gov. Sam Brownback, and the Legislature more generally, had argued that it's lawmakers who make decisions on how much funding goes to public education, not the Kansas Supreme Court. Justices, however, found that adequate education financing is a constitutional mandate and exactly the sort of thing the courts have the power to review if the state's not doing its job and meeting the terms of the constitution. 

* The court also said there are two ways to figure out the state's requirement to spend taxpayer money on public education: Is K-12 funded adequately? And is it funded equitably? The adequacy of public-education funding was viewed as the biggest part of the court case. A finding by the court that the state doesn't provide enough funding for every student in the state (which is what many school districts claim) would have major ramifications for the state's budget. The Kansas Supreme Court didn't answer that question on Friday. It told lower courts to take another look at it because those judges leaned too much upon cost studies to make their decisions. On the issue of equitable funding among school districts, the state Supreme Court said the state's funding scheme disadvantaged some school districts - particularly those that have less property value within them - relative to others. The court ordered that the Legislature fix the disparities of funding among school districts by July 1 or the courts would handle it themselves.

We'll have more on this later today.

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