Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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March 8, 2014

Kansas high court: School funding unconstitutional

(Continued)

"If we don't do something to make sure the revenue is there, then we're going to be in this continuing morass around school funding," said Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the state's largest teachers union, which called on lawmakers to boost total funding immediately.

The court ordered legislators Friday to boost funding on two types of aid for poor school districts — supplementing property tax revenues for general operations and capital improvement projects — by July 1. But there's no deadline for the lower court to provide overall funding numbers.

Brownback told reporters he does not see any need to reconsider the tax cuts because the reductions are spurring economic growth.

"We need to grow the number of people working in this state," Brownback said.

John Robb, an attorney for the plaintiffs, saw Friday's ruling as a victory because the justices rejected the state's arguments that the funding issue was political, to be determined solely by the Legislature and governor.

He predicted that after the next round of lower-court hearings, the outcome will mirror what happened previously: An order for the state to increase its total annual spending on schools by at least $440 million.

David Morantz, a Leawood attorney and father of three children who attend public schools, said he's glad the court is requiring lawmakers to meeting their constitutional duties but said, "It doesn't look like the fight is over."

"We, as parents and as citizens of Kansas, have to follow the constitution, and it's not too much to ask, for them to do it, too," he said.

But Republican officials believe the lower court's review is tilted more in the Legislature's favor.

"The order that came down this morning didn't give either side everything it asked for," said Attorney General Derek Schmidt, also a Republican. "Essentially, the court adopted a middle ground."

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