Archive for Monday, January 3, 2005

Supreme Court tells Legislature to act on schools

January 3, 2005

— The Kansas Supreme Court is giving the Kansas Legislature another chance to fix the state's formula for funding public education.

In an unsigned opinion, the justices both reversed and upheld portions of Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock's 2004 ruling that found the school funding system unconstitutional. The court said its "brief opinion" Monday would be followed up by a formal opinion filed once the Legislature acted this year on school finance

The state's high court reversed Bullock's findings that the school finance formula was a violation of the Kansas Constitution's equal protection clause and that it had an unconstitutionally disparate effect on minorities.

However, the justices sided with Bullock's finding that the Legislature failed to meet its state constitutional mandate to adequately fund public education.

In the much-anticipated ruling, the court said "It is clear increased (school) funding will be required; however, increased funding may not in and of itself make the financing formula constitutionally suitable. The equity with which the funds are distributed and the actual costs of education, including appropriate levels of administrative costs, are critical factors for the legislature to consider in achieving a suitable formula for financing education."

"The present financing formula increases disparities in funding, not based on a cost analysis, but rather on political and other factors not relevant to education," the court said in its opinion.

The court said it would "not dictate the precise way in which the legislature must fill its constitutional duty," but said it would retain jurisdiction of the case while lawmakers work on its legislative response. It gave lawmakers an April 12 deadline.

"Its failure to act in the face of this opinion would require this court to direct action to be taken to carry out that responsibility," the court warned.

The court directed that the current funding formula would remain in effect for now.

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