Topeka Gov. Kathleen Sebelius today sought to reassure Kansans that public schools will remain open despite a court order threatening to stop school funding.
State District Court Judge Terry Bullock, who has declared the Kansas school finance system unconstitutional and discriminatory, on Tuesday ruled that he would order funding of schools to stop June 30 if the Legislature didn't correct the inequities.
On Wednesday, the state filed a request with the Kansas Supreme Court to halt Bullock's order.
"We're fairly confident that the Supreme Court will allow schools to remain open as it reviews this complicated and extraordinary case," Sebelius said during a news conference.
Bullock had earlier given the Legislature until July 1 to change the school finance system, which he said underfunded all students, especially minorities.
Last week, the Legislature ended its session without providing any increase in funding for schools, nor making changes in the method of distributing funds.
Sebelius, who had unsucessfully pushed for tax increases for schools, said the failure to pump new revenue into education will result in teacher layoffs, cuts in programs and increased class sizes.
"The Legislature's failure to act on a school finance plan this year, will mean that there is pain felt around the state," Sebelius said.
Sebelius said she has not ruled out calling lawmakers into a special session, but that decision depends on when the Kansas Supreme Court issues a ruling on Bullock's initial finding that the school finance system is unconstitutional. The court is scheduled to hear arguments in the case Sept. 2 and could rule as early as mid-October.
Sebelius also said there is no attempt being made to try to come up with one last-ditch school-funding proposal for lawmakers to consider on May 27, the office end of the 2004 session, which has traditionally been a formality.
She said it didn't appear any lawmakers have changed their positions.
"Certainly the proponents of school funding are anxious to get something done, but they have been at the table since January. The folks who ended up voting no, saying we are going to wait for the court to order us to do something, are really the people who need to weigh in on this, and so far there has been no evidence that they are," she said.