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Former House Speaker Says Kansas Lawmakers Should Push Back Against Education Court Ruling

Stephen Koranda
Former Rep. Mike O'Neal, a Republican, talks to legislators Thursday.

A former Kansas House Speaker told state lawmakers to fight back against a court ruling over school funding. The state Supreme Court says lawmakers must reduce funding disparities among school districts or schools could close.

Former Republican Rep. Mike O’Neal didn’t tell Kansas legislators directly to defy the court, he said they should respond. But he said they could point to state law passed years ago saying the court can’t close schools.

“In the court’s own words, when one branch oversteps the other, it’s the obligation of the one who’s encroached upon to push back, and the Legislature ought to push back,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal, now the head of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, also says lawmakers could comply without adding additional funding for schools.

Democratic Rep. Jim Ward was not swayed.

“The Chamber was taking a very aggressive stance in terms of the ruling. I hope that is not listened to by the Legislature," Ward said. "What we should do, the people of Kansas want us to do our jobs, fix the problem and keeps schools open." Ward says the solution is to add funding for schools to reduce disparities.

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.