TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court set oral arguments for early May about whether legislation just signed into law purporting to make school funding more equitable meets constitutional muster.
The court, in a Friday order, announced oral arguments will take place May 10. In addition, the court set a quick timeline for briefings on the legislation, House Bill 2655.
The abbreviated timeline comes as a June 30 deadline imposed by the court on the Legislature remains in place. The court has held out the possibility schools might be closed if a constitutional system isn’t implemented in time.
Gov. Sam Brownback signed the bill into law Wednesday. House Bill 2655 seeks to address a February court ruling striking down the state’s school finance formula as unconstitutionally inequitable between rich and poor districts.
The bill applies an old formula used to determine capital outlay state aid to local option budget state aid and adds hold-harmless funding for districts that would lose cash under the change.
The ruling came as part of the Gannon case, an ongoing lawsuit filed by several school districts seeking additional funding for education.
“We plan to continue to argue that the State did not, in fact, eliminate the distance among the districts caused by naturally occurring wealth disparities. It worsened the disparities and put the districts even further apart,” Alan Rupe, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in an email.
In a statement accompanying the bill signing, Brownback said the legislation was the product of a “delicate legislative compromise.” Brownback contrasted the approach of House Bill 2655 with earlier bills that didn’t advance.
“Before approving this bill by substantial majorities in both houses, the Legislature considered several other alternatives, none of which attracted the necessary support,” Brownback said.
The briefing schedule announced by the court means all written arguments over the legislation must be in by April 28. Perhaps to help accommodate the tight schedule, the court is limiting briefs to 50 pages.
The court asks the briefs not only argue over whether the new law satisfies the court’s earlier ruling, but also what remedial action should be ordered — and what day it should take effect — if the court finds the new law isn’t constitutional. The instruction opens a possibility the court could extend its deadline to the Legislature to develop a constitutional system beyond June 30.
In addition, the court said Friday each side will have 60 minutes during oral arguments.