COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Wednesday for poor, rural school districts in a 21-year-old education funding lawsuit, saying legislators have failed to ensure that their students receive the opportunity to succeed.

The justices’ long-awaited ruling directs legislators and school district officials to work together to solve the state’s “constitutional deficiency.” It says the winners of the case are the children who represent South Carolina’s future.

“There is no loser,” the opinion concluded. The ruling “places before the parties a new opportunity … leaning forward towards a conversation unencumbered by blame.”

While requiring legislators to act, the ruling does not specify what they must do or how much they must spend.

It comes two years after the state’s high court re-heard arguments on the case that pitted struggling districts against lawmakers.

The question was whether South Carolina schools provide all students access to a “minimally adequate education” — the constitutional standard the justices set in their 1999 ruling that sent the case to trial.

The Legislature’s attorneys argued that students’ achievement can’t be legislated.

But justices said such arguments “ring hollow” when compared to legislators’ failure to analyze the issues preventing students’ success.

In 2012, the sides re-argued their appeal of a December 2005 lower court ruling that gave each a partial victory.