The state's high court denied a motion this morning to reopen the landmark Montoy lawsuit over school funding.
It's a blow -- though not an unexpected one -- to the more than 70 school districts that argue lawmakers are going back on promises to increase school funding.
The Legislature has cut schools -- along with everything else -- to eliminate deficits during the recession. The cuts came after the state added $1 billion in school funding in the wake of the original Montoy case.
The court ruled this morning that reopening a closed case is a "last resort" that "disturbs the finality of a judgment" and that therefore "the power to recall a mandate is to be exercised only in extraordinary circumstances."
In its four-page ruling the court noted that if it had ruled to reopen the case, it would have sent it back to district court for the hearing of evidence. This, the justices determined, would basically be like a new lawsuit. So they said there was insufficient reason to reopen the case.
Many lawmakers predicted today's decision, saying it would have been unprecedented for the court to reopen a settled case from years before.
Still, you can practically hear the sighs of relief in the Statehouse. Any new court challenge on school finance will have to start over in the district court.
The original Montoy case centered on whether the Legislature had funded schools at the level required by the state Constitution. The Constitution requires lawmakers to make "suitable" provision for education, but it doesn't put a dollar amount on "suitable."
In 2005 the Supreme Court found that the level of funding was unconstitutional because it didn’t provide an equal educational opportunity for disadvantaged students in largely urban areas, those with low English language skills and special education students.
The court criticized lawmakers for basing school aid on political considerations rather than education costs.
It was probably the toughest challenge to face Kansas lawmakers in a decade -- at least until the budget tanked in the recession, forcing lawmakers to cut some of the funds just appropriated for schools.