Gov. Brownback signs bill to keep Kansas schools open

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

TOPEKA, Kansas — Gov. Sam Brownback has signed an education funding bill designed to prevent the state Supreme Court from shutting down the state’s public schools.

Brownback announced Thursday that he had signed the measure. He took the action Wednesday.

The bill is a response to a Supreme Court ruling in February that the state isn’t providing enough aid to its poor districts. The justices threatened to shut down schools if lawmakers didn’t act by June 30.

The bill redistributes $83 million of the state’s $4 billion-plus in annual aid.

Critics contend that the bill doesn’t solve the problems identified by the court. But Brownback said in a statement that the bill arose from what he called a “delicate legislative compromise.”

He called on the court to review it with “appropriate deference.”

The Governor issued the following statement:

The legislature has acted to keep Kansas schools open and I agree with its choice. I have signed Senate Substitute for House Bill 2655 because I want to keep our schools open and ensure our students continue to have access to a quality education. I would remind those who criticized this bill as a ‘product of politics,’ that it is indeed the job of the legislature to address these issues.  The legislature consists of 165 elected representatives of the people. I do not take their judgment lightly. This bill is the result of a delicate legislative compromise – one that I respectfully endorse and that the Court should review with appropriate deference.”

A copy of the Governor’s signing statement for Senate Substitute for House Bill 2655 may be found here.

Meanwhile, the attorney representing the school districts issued a statement strongly disagreeing with the governor’s position.

Alan Rupe said in a news release, “While Governor Brownback is correct that there are ‘a variety of ways’ to cure the current equity problems, H.B. 2655 simply does not do that.”

Rupe said, The State did not eliminate the distance between the districts caused by naturally-occurring wealth disparities.  It worsened the disparities and put the districts even further apart.  H.B. 2655 simply does not cure the current equity problems; it makes them worse.”

The attorneys for the plaintiffs said they intend to notify the court of their position and ask them to find the state is not in compliance with its orders.

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