Brownback asks Kansas Supreme Court for mediation in school funding case

TOPEKA | Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Gov. Sam Brownback have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to stay a lower court's ruling on school finance and send the case to mediation.

The documents were filed Thursday in Topeka in response to a Jan. 11 ruling in Shawnee County District Court that said the state's system for funding K-12 schools was unconstitutional. The state immediately filed notice that it would appeal the ruling. No court date has been set.

Brownback said in a statement that it is the Legislature's duty to set funding for schools but lawmakers owe it to taxpayers, parents, teachers and students to discuss a way to solve the dispute "to the satisfaction of all involved."

"It is my hope that through staying the decision and allowing all interested parties to give input on how to best fund our schools and get more money into the classroom, our state will maintain its reputation of having great schools and great educational opportunities for our children," the Republican governor said.

John Robb, a Newton attorney representing parents and school districts who filed the lawsuit in 2010, wasn't immediately available for comment. The lawsuit alleged that Kansas reneged on promises to comply with earlier court rulings to increase education spending.

The state Supreme Court said in 2005 and 2006 rulings that the Legislature is constitutionally obligated to finance a suitable education for every child, suggesting that the state could face continual increases in spending. Lawmakers dramatically increased funding for schools after those rulings but backed away from their promises during the Great Recession.

The Shawnee County ruling cited the Legislature's duty under the education article in saying that current school funding is inadequate. The three-judge panel rejected the state's arguments that legislators did their best to maintain state support for public schools and that there was little statistical evidence that the cuts had hurt student achievement.