DALLAS - In a unanimous ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that lawmakers must increase funding for public schools to comply with the state constitution.
Conferring enforcement power on the state district court that ruled in the original case, the state Supreme Court noted that the Kansas Legislature, currently in session, should be allowed to act on the ruling by July 1.
The Supreme Court upheld district and appeals court rulings that the state's funding formula violated Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution.
"More specifically, we affirm the panel's holding that the State established unreasonable, wealth-based disparities by withholding all capital outlay state aid payments to which certain school districts were otherwise entitled," the ruling stated.
Lawmakers must increase funding by $129 million, in addition to the more than $3 billion the state has budgeted for the 2014-2015 school year, according to the Kansas Department of Education. However, the Supreme Court left it up to the lower court to determine how much must be added to comply with state law.
Like other states, Kansas cut funding to education as revenues fell during the recession that began in 2007. The Kansas Supreme Court ruling drew parallels with other states, including Texas.
However, Kansas reduced available revenues further with state income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013 at the urging of Gov. Sam Brownback. Lawmakers could be forced to reconsider the tax measures, which Kansas and other Republican-run states have pushed as a means to stimulate their economies.
Kansas legislators have delayed any decisions on school funding until the high court made a final judgment.
The lawsuit was filed in 2010 on behalf of parents and school districts who argued that the state had harmed students because spending cuts resulted in lower test scores. State attorneys maintained that legislators did their best to minimize cuts to education.
While the court held that the individuals lacked standing to bring the case to trial, it upheld the standing of the school districts.