5 things to know about Kansas school funding fight

By The Associated Press | Posted - Mar. 7, 2014 at 2:20 a.m.



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TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court will issue a decision Friday in a lawsuit filed by parents and school districts that accuses the state of not spending enough money on its public schools.

Here are five things to know about the case:

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LONG-AWAITED RULING: Parents and four school districts sued the state in 2010, saying Kansas lawmakers reneged on promises to provide a certain level of funding for public schools. A lower court ordered the state to increase school funding by at least $440 million, but the decision was appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which heard arguments in October.

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BROADER IMPLICATIONS: All state constitutions provide for public schools, but the Kansas Supreme Court has been strong and specific in the past in spelling out how much the state must spend. Education advocates have wondered whether the push in Kansas to base funding on schools' costs — and not political considerations — would continue, perhaps emboldening parents and educators in other states.

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FEELING THE PINCH: Supreme Court rulings in an earlier lawsuit prompted lawmakers to boost spending for schools in 2005 and 2006, but lawmakers backed away from those promises during the Great Recession. The state said it did the best it could during tough economic times, but funding cuts to school districts resulted in more crowded classrooms, trimmed staffs, dropped after-school programs and increased fees for parents.

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TAX CUTS: Should the court order Kansas to ramp up school funding, lawmakers may have to reconsider personal income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013 that were championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. The cuts are estimated to be worth nearly $3.9 billion over the next five years in Kansas, among many Republican-led states that cut taxes to help stimulate economies after the Great Recession.

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WHAT'S NEXT: The lawsuit dealt only with questions involving the Kansas Constitution, leaving no room for an appeal of the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president of the Kansas Senate says lawmakers will need time to consider the ruling, regardless of which way the court rules.

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The Associated Press

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