June 25 (Reuters) - The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the state’s latest plan to boost funding for K-12 public schools falls short of a state constitutional requirement for adequacy but gave lawmakers more time to fix it. The court allowed the plan to take effect temporarily and set a new deadline of June 30, 2019, or “until further order of the court” to allow the legislature to undertake mainly inflation adjustments to achieve a constitutional funding system.
“But if the state chooses to make timely financial adjustments in response to the problems identified with the plan and its accompanying calculations and then completes that plan, the state can bring the K-12 public education financing system into constitutional compliance with the adequacy requirement,” the ruling stated.
In April, Republican Governor Jeff Colyer signed into law a more than $500 million funding increase phased in over five years.
The ruling moved the nearly eight-year-old litigation brought by a group of school districts closer to resolution. The decision, which followed oral arguments in May, marked the sixth by the supreme court in the lawsuit.
Alan Rupe, a lawyer for the school districts that sued the state in 2010, said inflation adjustments to the funding law could result in an additional $250 million to $400 million a year for schools.
“Getting that additional funding would satisfy the court and satisfy the plaintiffs,” he said.
Colyer’s office said the ruling allows schools to open in the fall and acknowledges that “considerable progress” has been made on school funding.
“We will maintain a sharp focus on sending dollars to the classroom without raising taxes,” the governor said in a statement. “I look forward to building upon the work we did together this year to address the remaining issues identified in the ruling.”
In October, the justices determined that the legislature’s previous plan to hike school funding by $293 million over two years was inadequate. At that time, the court set a June 30, 2018, deadline for having a constitutional funding system in place.
School funding pressures were cited in May as an ongoing concern by S&P Global Ratings, which revised the outlook on Kansas’ AA-minus credit rating to stable from negative due to stronger-than-expected revenue collections. (Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago Editing by Matthew Lewis)