Kansas attorney general asks state's highest court to put school funding ruling on hold



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TOPEKA, Kansas — Kansas' attorney general on Monday asked the state's highest court to put on hold a lower court's decision ordering roughly $50 million more in aid to public school districts this week.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt said in his request to the Kansas Supreme Court that three-judge district court panel's decision to invalidate key parts of an education funding law enacted this year was "unprecedented."

The Shawnee County District Court panel's decision Friday ordered Kansas to provide more money to districts using the state's previous school funding formula. The Department of Education took steps Monday toward providing the first $17 million of the extra funds, though the payments remained on hold.

"Obviously, the Panel's unprecedented decision has massive implications for the State's budget and finances," Schmidt's request to the Supreme Court said.

The new school funding law took effect in April and scrapped the old per-student formula for distributing aid in favor of predictable grants for each districts. Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and GOP legislators who supported the changes argued that they made funding for stable for both the state and its 286 school districts.

The new school funding law also cut roughly $50 million from aid that school districts expected to receive for the fiscal year ending this month, a move that balance the state budget following massive personal income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013.

The lower court objected to the reductions, even though total aid, at $4 billion, remained well above what school districts received during the 2013-14 fiscal year. The panel labeled the change from per-student to grants "pernicious" because aid would no longer be adjusted automatically if a district gained students or more students had special needs, such as learning English as a second language.

The court said new law violated the Kansas Constitution by keeping the state from fulfilling its duty to finance a suitable education for every child.

"Now the state's doing everything it desperately can to keep from complying," said John Robb, an attorney for the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts that filed the lawsuit in 2010.

The same lower-court panel ruled in December that the state must increase its total aid to schools by at least $548 million a year. The state already is appealing that decision.


Online:

Kansas attorney general's request: http://1.usa.gov/1eVWt1G


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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