Kansas Supreme Court to take up school funding case

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A case that has the potential to increase funding for Kansas schools goes before the state Supreme Court today, the same day that economists, legislative researchers and officials in Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration are expected to announce new, more pessimistic revenue projections.

Four districts that are suing the state have asked justices to lift a stay on a lower court ruling and release state funds to public school districts. A three-judge Shawnee County District Court panel found in June that the state’s newly enacted strategy for financing 286 school districts and cuts to state aid for low-income school districts were unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court approved Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s request for a stay on the order while he pursued an appeal. The state argues in court filings that “doomsday predictions” about students and the state suffering because of how schools are being funded “have proven to be pure hyperbole.”

Education, from K-12 through the collegiate level, is the state’s largest expenditure, accounting for 62 percent of its budget. Any increase in education spending has the potential to create budget havoc when the Legislature reconvenes in January.

Since the current fiscal year began in July, tax collections have fallen about 4.1 percent short of expectations, at $1.8 billion. The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging, in an effort to stimulate the economy.

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