Archive for Tuesday, August 31, 2004

School board weighs in on hearing

August 31, 2004


Lawrence school officials proclaimed themselves anxious and mystified Monday after listening to Kansas Supreme Court arguments in the school-finance case.

"I couldn't predict what will happen or come away saying I feel good about it or bad about it," said Lawrence school board President Leni Salkind. "I will anxiously look forward to seeing what the court says."

Salkind watched the 90-minute webcast at the offices of the Journal-World along with fellow board members Austin Turney, Rich Minder, Sue Morgan and Cindy Yulich. Lawrence schools Supt. Randy Weseman, Bruce Passman, executive director of student services, and Eudora schools Supt. Marty Kobza also watched the webcast.

The court's decision -- expected no earlier than Oct. 15 -- could mean big things for the Lawrence school district's future.

Salary increases for faculty, administrators and staff hinge on the outcome of the court case. The Lawrence Education Assn. and the school district have agreed to delay salary talks until more funding information becomes available.

Weseman, after the arguments were completed, suggested he wanted the court to provide a solution instead of putting the matter back in the hands of the Kansas Legislature.

"I just don't know how far the court will go," he said. "If they just redirect the Legislature to solve the problem, I'm not sure what that's going to do."

Minder agreed. The Legislature already has failed to provide for the suitable education of Kansas children, he said.

"We do have recourse through the courts," he said.

Officials found the arguments difficult to follow, both because of technical glitches -- Monday's webcast was a first for the court -- and because of the legal jargon being thrown around the courtroom.

"There was a great deal of interruption in the audio, which is the most important part," Turney said.

Salkind said it also was sometimes hard to understand what the attorneys were saying and implying.

"These are attorneys arguing legal questions, which is very different from school board members discussing issues," she said.

Despite the issues, local officials listened intently to the arguments being made. Morgan took notes throughout the verbal arguments.

Weseman considered Monday's verbal arguments to be a reiteration of arguments already made. But he considered the questions from the Supreme Court justices to be significant.

Local school officials left the gathering unwilling to make predictions about the outcome of the case.

"I think," Turney said, "it probably would be a mistake to draw too much from today."

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