UPDATE: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
A Kansas Supreme Court justice is asking whether legal battles over school funding will ever end if the high court sides with school districts that have sued the state to force higher spending.
Justice Eric Rosen said during a hearing Tuesday that he worries about what he called "constant litigation."
The court heard arguments on the state's appeal of a lower-court ruling that the state must boost its annual spending on public schools by at least $440 million a year.
Wichita attorney Alan Rupe spoke on behalf of the aggrieved school districts. Rosen asked him whether there's an end in sight to litigation over school funding.
Rupe said the end comes when lawmakers provide adequate funding.
But Rosen said that's a target that changes year to year.
Two Kansas Supreme Court justices have told an attorney for the state that it has broken promises made to public schools about their funding.
Justices Eric Rosen and Lee Johnson made their comments from the bench during arguments Tuesday on the appeal of a school funding lawsuit. The state is appealing a lower court ruling that legislators must boost annual funding for schools by at least $440 million.
The Supreme Court is hearing a lawsuit filed in 2010 by several school districts, including Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Wichita. They argue the state has failed to comply with a 2006 court order to increase funding.
State Solicitor General Stephen McAllister argued that the state failed to comply because of the Great Recession.
Attorney Arthur Chalmers briefly suggested during arguments Tuesday before the court that the Legislature could cut off public schooling at the sixth grade and still meet its constitutional obligation to make suitable provision for financing public schools. However, he later backed off, saying such a decision probably would be too arbitrary to pass muster.
The justices are considering the state's appeal of a lower court order mandating that legislators boost annual spending on schools by at least $440 million.
Chalmers said the constitution gives legislators wide discretion in setting spending and voters unhappy with lawmakers can remove them from office.
Attorneys for the state of Kansas are trying to persuade the state Supreme Court that parties suing the state over public school funding are being unreasonable in their demands.
At issue in Tuesday's hearing is whether the Supreme Court will uphold a lower-court ruling issued in January ordering the state to increase school funding by at least $440 million a year.
The court is hearing a lawsuit filed in 2010 by several school districts, including Dodge City, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Wichita. They argue the state has failed to comply with a 2006 court order to increase funding.
The Kansas Constitution requires the Legislature to provide suitable funding, but state Solicitor General Stephen McAllister said that's not "a bankruptcy pact."
A Supreme Court decision is anticipated by early January 2014.