Kansas’ highest court Tuesday put on hold a lower court’s order for the state to immediately increase aid to public schools by roughly $50 million, but it promised to move quickly to decide whether the state is distributing its money fairly.
The Kansas Supreme Court issued a one-page order, signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, only a day after a request from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. He argued that a ruling last week from a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court was “unprecedented.”
The lower-court panel invalidated key parts of a school funding law enacted by the Republican-dominated Legislature this year and ordered Kansas to provide the extra money using the state’s previous school funding formula.
The order will remain on hold while the Supreme Court considers the state’s appeal. The high court said it would set an “expedited” schedule for deciding whether the state is distributing more than $4 billion in annual aid to give all students equal educational opportunities.
“The court recognizes the need for swift resolution of the equity portion of this case,” the order said.
The same three-judge panel ruled in December that Kansas must boost its annual aid to public schools by at least $548 million, and the state has appealed that.
But the lower court’s ruling last week ordered the state to provide the additional $50 million to its 286 school districts this week. State officials learned Tuesday that tax collections in June fell $22 million short of expectations.
“We appreciate the Supreme Court’s swift granting of the state’s request to stay the lower court decision pending appeal,” Schmidt said in a statement.
The new school funding law scrapped the old per-student formula for distributing aid in favor of predictable grants for each district. The lower-court panel said the changes violated the state constitution by preventing the state from fulfilling its duty to provide a suitable education for every child.
John Robb, an attorney representing the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita, and Kansas City, Kan., districts that sued the state over education funding in 2010, said the Supreme Court’s action is not unusual.
“It's unfortunate for Kansas kids that they have to wait longer, but I’m confident the Supreme Court will affirm the trial court’s order,” he said.