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Court: Kansas must increase aid to schools

TOPEKA (AP) -- Kansas must increase its spending on elementary and secondary education to comply with state law, a three-judge panel ruled Friday in a rebuke to lawmakers who said cuts to per-pupil spending were unavoidable because of the recession.

Parents and school districts had argued the state's funding was unconstitutional, saying the state has failed to live up to its promises to increase school funding as ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2006. They said schools have had to make cuts that have hurt student achievement.

Friday's 245-page ruling from Shawnee County District Court likely will trigger an appeal by the state, although it's unclear how quickly that case would be heard.

In the ruling, the judges barred lawmakers from making further cuts to per-pupil spending. But the ruling also acknowledged the state likely would appeal its findings.

The Shawnee County District Court judges said the spending cuts in recent legislative sessions caused an "unconstitutional eroding" of education funding. They ordered the state to reverse those declines effective with the 2014 budget, which begins July 1, which would raise the base aid per student to $4,492 as required by law. The current level is $3,783 and was set by legislators in May 2012 based on available state revenues.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by attorneys John Robb and Alan Rupe, who are representing students and school districts, including Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Wichita. They argued despite the 2006 Supreme Court order, achievement gaps remained, dropout levels are high and students in general are completing school "with less opportunity and less education than the generation before."

* For more, see Sunday's Hays Daily News