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Kansas still underfunds schools: state supreme court

(Reuters) - The Kansas Supreme Court on Monday ruled that even after the state increased funding for public schools this summer, the new plan was still constitutionally inadequate.

The high court set a deadline of June 30, 2018, for Kansas to set up a funding plan that meets the state constitution’s definition of adequacy.

In response to the court’s unanimous ruling in March that Kansas’ schools were underfunded, the state in June enacted a two-year funding boost totaling $293 million. An attorney for school districts suing the state argued before the state supreme court in July that the increase fell far short of needs.

Alan Rupe, the school districts’ attorney, on Monday expressed hope the state will finally comply with its obligation.

“Nearly one-quarter of all Kansas public school students (and higher numbers of harder-to-educate students) are currently failing to meet the state’s standards and are being denied a constitutional education,” Rupe said in a statement.

Governor Sam Brownback decried the ruling.

“Today’s court decision is yet another regrettable chapter in the never ending cycle of litigation over Kansas school funding,” he said in a statement. “The court should not substitute its decision for that of the legislature.”

Finding more money for schools may be difficult in Kansas given the legislature hiked income tax rates over Brownback’s veto in June to address big budget gaps.

The lawsuit, which dates back to 2010, also resulted in a state supreme court ruling requiring Kansas to address funding disparities between rich and poor school districts.

Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Matthew Lewis