Legislative session begins without school finance ruling

Published On: Jan 12 2014 09:23:56 PM CST   Updated On: Jan 13 2014 04:05:17 PM CST

Does Kansas spend enough on schools? That's the question before State Supreme Court Justices and their ruling could dominate talks in Topeka.

When lawmakers start the new session on Monday, they won't have a key ruling on school finance.

"If the court comes back with any kind of decision close to what the lower court did, that will dominate the session," said Wichita Representative Jim Ward. "It will be the first day, last day and every day in between."

Parents and school districts filed a lawsuit against the State, saying Kansas wasn't spending an adequate amount on kids. Last year a lower court agreed, increasing the amount to $4500 per pupil.

"We spend well over $11,000 in state funding per student and they are only looking at base state aid," said Senate President Susan Wagle.

Wagle thinks the court should also count the extra money the state spends on at-risk students, and those with special needs.

But if state lawmakers are ordered to pay more to schools, they could follow the order and make budget cuts elsewhere. Keep in mind, money is tight.

So lawmakers could also rewrite the Kansas constitution to take away the State Supreme Court's power over the issue or they could ignore the ruling outright.

"We shouldn't be any different than regular citizens who have to follow the law that is handed down from the court," Ward said. "Now we just need to step up and make the hard decisions."

Without a ruling from the court, lawmakers are left to wait and both sides believe they will need all 90 days of this session to work out a school finance plan. They are hopeful this decision will come soon.