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Kansas Lawmakers Decide Not To Address School Funding

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo

The final day of the Kansas legislative session is often nothing more than a formality--but this year, a legal fight over school funding forced Kansas lawmakers to meet and consider how to respond.

The state Supreme Court recently said the system Kansas lawmakers use to fund schools is unconstitutional, but lawmakers decided not to respond during the final day of the legislative session. The court says lawmakers have created unconstitutional funding disparities among school districts that must be fixed or schools will be closed. The lack of action means there could be a special session or a showdown between the court and lawmakers.

A meeting of Republican senators made it clear there wasn’t a majority on board with any solution. Senate President Susan Wagle said they needed more time to review the ruling and decide how to respond.

“We are not ignoring the schools. We are not ignoring the court order. We have just decided at this point in time not to react,” Wagle said.

Some lawmakers say they shouldn’t be pressured by the court into responding. Wagle said crafting a solution in such a short time wasn't workable.

“The opinion hasn’t sunk in yet. We still need time to analyze it and still need time to process and decide what our response will be,” she said.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly says the solution is simple: appropriate around $40 million to comply. She said lawmakers' inaction is bad for schools.

“We are leaving our schools in a world of uncertainty. What are they going to do about summer school, what are they going to do about teacher contracts?” Kelly said.

If there is a special session, it will need to happen soon: The court says the issue must be fixed by the end of June.

Stephen Koranda is the managing editor of the Kansas News Service, based at KCUR. He has nearly 20 years of experience in public media as a reporter and editor.