After rejecting the latest school funding plan for being unconstitutional, the Kansas Supreme Court decided this week that the state needs to come with a better plan by June 30 or risk a shutdown of schools.
Justices argued that regulators declined to comply with a February court order that asked them to pour more money in budget-tight school districts. And now the court seeks to force lawmakers to fix once and for all the inequitable school funding.
But Republicans aren’t at peace with the latest decision. They blasted the state’s highest court for taking political sides and trumping on the Legislature’s authority. House Speaker Ray Merrick noted that lawmakers did all they could to fairly distribute the “record amounts” of cash going to the state’s school system.
Merrick noted that justices threatened to shut down the system because of less than 1 percent of the schools’ total budget.
“Frankly, I find their actions disgraceful,”
But justices argued in the court opinion that it wasn’t a court’s whim to shut down Kansas’ school system, it was the court’s duty to state residents to ensure that lawmakers comply with the Legislature’s duties under the state constitution.
The court rejected a new school budget law that brought some revisions to the former plan but failed to bring no changes to the amount of funds deployed to the 286 school districts. Kansas has issued three school budget laws in as many years.
Those who proposed the new law hoped that it would prevent the court from fulfilling its February promise of shutting down schools. But redistributing funding to poorer school districts is not that easy as there is incredible political pressure to prevent the money from departing from wealthier districts.
Kansas lawmakers had numerous attempts of balancing the education budget ever since they cut personal income taxes in 2012 in an effort to boost the economy. Gov. Sam Brownback, who was the man behind the tax cuts, criticized the highest court for threatening to close schools.
The governor believes that justices are now involved in political brinksmanship, which may have burdening consequences for the generations to come. He added that the court displays a visible disregard for the role and authority of the state’s Legislature.
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