TOPEKA The Kansas Supreme Court today approved the new school finance law, paving the way for schools to open on time next month.
"The present solution may not be ideal. However, it is approved for interim purposes," Chief Justice Kay McFarland wrote in the order.
The court said it would retain jurisdiction in the case since the Legislature is undertaking a study that next year could form the basis for further school funding.
The court's decision ended, for now at least, a bitter battle over school finance.
Last month, the court ordered the Legislature to increase school funding after having ruled that the current system was unconstitutionally under-funded and inequitable. When the Legislature broke a July 1 deadline, the court threatened to cut off school funding to get lawmakers to comply.
Lawmakers meeting in special legislative session finally approved a $148.4 million increase to schools on top of a $142 million increase approved in the regular legislative session.
Earlier today, attorneys argued for an hour before the court on the merits of the new legislation. Representatives on opposing sides urged the court to allow schools to open on time.
Alok Ahuja, a private attorney with Lathrop & Gage who was representing the state, said, "There is no justification for this unwarranted and virtually unprecedented step of ordering school closures."
Alan Rupe, an attorney representing plaintiff school districts that successfully sued the state, said the new funding increase was a "good-faith, first-step" effort by the state.
"There is nothing in this legislation that would cause us to stop spending and close schools," he said.
He said the final resolution of the case will be next year if the Legislature increases school funding in compliance with an education cost-study.
Dan Biles, an attorney representing the State Board of Education, also urged the court to allow schools to open on time next month.
And Biles also urged that the court let schools know as soon as possible what it will decide.
"These districts need to know where they stand, and honestly they need to know today," he said.
In January, the Kansas Supreme Court declared the school finance system unconstitutional because it was under-funded, and the method of distributing the funds was unfair to low wealth districts.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)