Even small cuts have big effects in rural Kansas school districts, where superintendents listened intently Monday to arguments in the school-finance case.
"I hope they understand that out here, if I have to cut an art-teacher position, that's our whole art department," said Bill Wilson, superintendent of the Tribune school district, 16 miles east of the Colorado state line. "If I cut my one family and consumer science teacher, my home economics department is gone. I only have one high school math teacher."
That doesn't mean, however, that Wilson wants the Kansas Supreme Court to order the Kansas Legislature to revamp the state's school-funding formula.
Such revamping might hurt smaller schools financially. The plaintiffs in the case -- the Dodge City and Salina school districts -- argued Monday that the state finance formula distributes too much money to small rural districts at the expense of those with high concentrations of poor and minority students.
"The Supreme Court shouldn't decide the formula," he said. "That's the Legislature's job."
Kelly Glodt listened to comments via the Internet in Oberlin, where he's school superintendent. He disagreed with arguments from state attorneys that if a school's performance is above average, it's inherently adequate.
"But if that's the case, isn't that also saying we can wait can until test scores take a dive before we're inadequate?" Glodt said. "If we wait until then, it'll be too late."
Pratt Supt. Ken Kennedy said he was encouraged by the proceedings.
"It sounded to me like the (Supreme Court) justices are really looking for answers," Kennedy said. "And I thought their questions were more favorable for the plaintiffs. When they questioned the state, it was about the state's position; when they questioned Mr. Rupe (Alan Rupe, attorney for the plaintiffs), it was more along the lines of 'OK, how do we solve this?'"