TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state is not spending enough money on its public schools, ordering an increase in two types of aid by July 1 and more lower-court hearings on how much the state must boost its total education spending.
Here are five things to know about the case:
LONG-AWAITED RULING: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by parents and four school districts in 2010, which claimed lawmakers reneged on promises to provide a certain level of funding for public schools. A lower court last year ordered Kansas to increase school funding by at least $440 million, but the decision was appealed to the high court.
WHAT THE COURT SAID: The justices rejected the state’s arguments that the issues in the lawsuit were political and not for the courts to review. It ordered increases by July 1 that, according to the state Department of Education, would total $129 million annually. But, the case will return to the lower court to determine how much more the state must spend. Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders were reviewing the decision.
BROADER IMPLICATIONS: All state constitutions provide for public schools, but Kansas’ Supreme Court has been strong and specific in the past in spelling out how much the state must spend. Education advocates had wondered whether the push in Kansas to base funding on schools’ costs — and not political considerations — would continue, perhaps emboldening parents and educators in other states.
FEELING THE PINCH: State Supreme Court rulings in an earlier lawsuit prompted lawmakers to boost spending for schools in 2005 and 2006, but lawmakers backed away from those promises during the Great Recession. The state said it did the best it could during tough economic times, but funding cuts to school districts resulted in more crowded classrooms, smaller staffs, fewer after-school programs and increased fees for parents.
TAX CUTS: If the courts order more spending in the future, lawmakers may have to reconsider personal income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013 that were championed by Brownback. The cuts are estimated to be worth nearly $3.9 billion over the next five years in Kansas, which is among many Republican-led states that cut taxes to help stimulate economies after the Great Recession.