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Kansas Legislature Adjusts Funding Formula to Keep Schools Open

Working under a looming threat from the Kansas Supreme Court, lawmakers late Friday night agreed, among other things, to sell a state agency and pull money out of an emergency relief fund in order to provide the state's poorest school districts with $38 million more in aid, according to the Kansas City Star.

In May, the state's highest court, which has repeatedly described the way the state distributes $4 billion in aid as inequitable, said it would cut off all school funding if the legislature didn't revise its funding formula by July 1.  

Lawyers for the four districts that originally sued the state in the Gannon v. Kansas case said in a statement that they are satisfied with the proposal and will convey that to the court. If accepted, that would essentially guarantee that the schools will stay open. 

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign the legislation into law in the coming days. 

The plan would use $13 million from the expected sale of the Kansas Bioscience Authority to a private company and the rest from motor vehicle fees, a settlement with the tobacco industry, and the state's emergency school aid budget, according to the Star. 

Other proposals made during the two-day special session included pulling money from the state's welfare system and providing $50 million to prevent the state's wealthiest districts from losing money during the reshuffling of school aid.  All those failed.  

A separate proposal to change the constitution so that the supreme court couldn't shut down the school system over funding disputes failed by one vote.

But the drama isn't over. The court is expected to determine later this year whether the state's funding formula is adequate. Losing that case could cost the state more than $400 million.

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