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Arguments In Kansas School Funding Lawsuit Set For September

Stephen Koranda, File Photo
Kansas Public Radio

The Kansas Supreme Court has set arguments for September in an ongoing lawsuit over school funding. At issue is whether the state is spending enough on schools.

Republican leaders in the Legislature call the timing of the arguments political, because they’ll take place not long before the fall election. House Speaker Ray Merrick says it’s an effort to direct attention away from retention elections for the justices.

“The timing of the scheduled arguments yet again demonstrates the court’s desperate political motivations,” Merrick says.

Senate President Susan Wagle also blasted the announcement.

“Only a body of activist judges planning to strike down the law regarding the adequacy of school finance would set hearings so close to the November election. It begs the question - who has turned our children into pawns in this legal matter and made school funding a political issue?” Wagle says.

Alan Rupe, an attorney representing school districts, says the quick timing makes sense because of the importance of the lawsuit.

“I think they want to take up the issue to get a decision sooner [rather] than later. That absolutely coincides with what I hear from parents and teachers and administrators throughout the state,” Rupe says.

There's a lot of money at stake. Rupe says that if the court sides with school districts, it could cost the state more than a half billion dollars to comply. That could lead to an impasse with lawmakers who are determined to hold the line on education spending.

Lawmakers recently resolved the other part of the lawsuit focused on whether schools are funded equitably. That issue had threatened to close Kansas schools earlier this month if it wasn’t resolved. The Legislature added around $40 million in aid that helps reduce property tax rates in poorer school districts.

Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio and the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, KMUW, Kansas Public Radio and High Plains Radio covering health, education and politics.