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Governor Brownback Calls For Special Session To Work On Kansas School Funding Issues

Stephen Koranda
KPR/File photo

Update via AP Wednesday, 10:06 a.m.: Gov. Sam Brownback is preparing to set the date for a special session of the Kansas Legislature on school funding.

The Republican governor plans to sign a proclamation Wednesday afternoon formally calling the GOP-dominated Legislature into special session.

He wants lawmakers to respond to a state Supreme Court order last month declaring that public schools won't be able to open after June 30 if legislators don't rewrite school finance laws.

The court rejected some changes made earlier this year in how Kansas distributes more than $4 billion a year in aid to its 286 local school districts.

The justices said education funding remains unfair to poor districts. Many Republicans have strongly criticized the ruling, and some have wanted to defy the court.

Lawmakers adjourned their annual session June 1.

Original story:

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he will call state lawmakers back to Topeka for a special session to work on school funding issues. In a statement, Brownback said he made the decision after consulting with legislative leaders.

Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley says the governor’s priority is avoiding a school shutdown caused by a lawsuit over school funding.

“They’re going to work very hard to keep the special session focused on the issue of education to make sure the courts do not close our schools and the kids can go back to school,” Hawley says.

Brownback hasn’t yet set a date for the session, but says it will happen this month.

The Kansas Supreme Court says lawmakers need to reduce funding disparities among school districts. If lawmakers don’t, justices say the school funding system will be unconstitutional and schools will be closed at the end of the month.

Some Republican lawmakers have said there should be a special session to tackle the issue. Democrats in the Legislature, led by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, started a petition this week aimed at forcing the governor to call a special session.

"It appears that Sam Brownback is finally listening to the people of Kansas who are very concerned about keeping schools open in August," Hensley said in reaction to the governor's announcement. "However, it remains to be seen whether he and Republican legislative leaders want to comply with the Gannon equity order in a bipartisan way. Or, will they once again push through legislation that sets up yet another confrontation with the Kansas Supreme Court?"

Some legislators have criticized the court over the ruling. Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick says lawmakers will keep schools open without “bowing to judicial overreach.”