Kansas Supreme Court will hand down school finance decision Friday

03/06/2014 10:39 PM

03/06/2014 10:39 PM

The Kansas Supreme Court said it will rule Friday on a landmark school funding case that could force lawmakers to spend $600 million more annually on education.

Awaited at the Capitol for weeks, the decision could upend an ongoing legislative session that just reached its halfway point.

The court will rule on a lawsuit saying the Legislature abandoned its constitutional obligation to suitably fund elementary and secondary schools in Kansas.

The court plans to release its ruling at 9:30 a.m.

A three-judge panel ruled last year that since 2009 the Kansas Legislature — in concert with Govs. Mark Parkinson and Sam Brownback — cut school funding in violation of the state constitution.

In that 250-page ruling, the judges called the cuts “an obvious and continuing pattern of disregard of constitutional funding.”

The group of parents and school districts that brought the lawsuit argued that the state reneged on its promise to increase school funding under a 2005 order issued by the Supreme Court.

A sweeping decision ordering the Legislature to pour millions into schools could set up a showdown between lawmakers and the courts, two branches of government that haven’t gotten along in recent years.

Conservative lawmakers controlling the Legislature have already signaled that they might defy any order forcing them to increase school spending.

They believe that the Legislature — not the courts — controls the state’s purse strings. Many are still stinging over the court’s 2005 decision that led to more than $700 million being spent on Kansas schools.

Brownback, a Republican, sent a similar message to the high court at his annual address to the Legislature in January.

Saying that too many decisions are made by “unaccountable” and “opaque” institutions, Brownback emphasized that the state constitution empowers the Legislature — “the people’s representatives” — to make spending decisions.

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