TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court said Tuesday the Legislature enacted an equitable school funding system, ending a week long saga over whether lawmakers would comply with a court order.
The court closed the equity portion of the ongoing lawsuit over school funding, known as Gannon. The finding came after the Legislature passed a funding bill last week, and attorneys for school districts suing for equitable financing signed off on the solution.
The justices now will turn their attention to determining whether school funding is adequate. The court said it will set oral arguments in that portion of the case in a future order.
“It’s official,” Attorney General Derek Schmidt said. “The Legislature has satisfied the constitution’s requirement for equitable school funding, and Kansas public schools will remain open and operating.”
The court in May ruled the state’s school finance system didn’t equitably distribute funds. During a special session last week, lawmakers boosted equity spending by $38 million, with most of that amount going toward property tax relief.
Lawmakers were working against a June 30 deadline set by the court. Educators and legislators feared justices could close the schools if the Legislature didn’t pass a bill.
“Obviously, plaintiffs are extremely pleased that schools will be opening in the fall and that funding will be distributed in a manner that comports with the Kansas Constitution’s equity requirement,” said Alan Rupe, an attorney for the plaintiff districts. “Nonetheless, plaintiffs are also aware that the matter is not resolved and the question of whether funding levels are adequate remains.”
The bill passed by lawmakers and signed Monday by Gov. Sam Brownback pays for the equity funding boost in part by drawing upon $13 million in proceeds from the sale of the Kansas Bioscience Authority.
Proceeds in excess of $25 million from the sale will go toward the school funding formula.
Brownback has cast doubt on whether the sale will generate $38 million — the amount needed to provide $13 million for schools. If the sale falls short, the equity formula will draw upon an extraordinary needs fund set for schools.