Archive for Monday, February 23, 2004

House backs bill speeding appeal in school finance case

February 23, 2004


— Legislation permitting the state to appeal quickly a judge's order to revise the state's school funding formula won first-round House approval Monday.

The bill, which passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote last week, creates a narrow category for direct appeal to the Kansas Supreme Court in cases where the state's educational statutes have been declared unconstitutional.

Unanimity is unlikely in the House, which was expected to take final action on the bill Tuesday after giving it initial approval on a voice vote Monday.

House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, said Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock raised legitimate concerns in his preliminary order directing the state to correct flaws in the school aid formula.

Bullock gave legislators until July 1 to fix the formula, which he found to be unconstitutional, and suggested the remedy would cost the state $1 billion. His December ruling came in a 1999 lawsuit filed by parents and administrators in the Salina and Dodge City school districts.

McKinney and others who oppose an accelerated appeal contend it would give the Legislature a reason to do nothing on school finance this year while awaiting a ruling from the high court.

"We need to address the problem this year," McKinney said. "If we do nothing, the results may be much worse than what any of us might want."

But Rep. Michael O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, said Bullock made a similar ruling in 1991 on the school finance formula, and in 1992 the Legislature approved a new formula -- the one being challenged now as unconstitutional.

"Ten years ago we blinked and let one district court judge cause us to completely revamp the school finance formula," O'Neal said. "The people have the right to have a decision made by the highest court in the state."

Accelerated appeal bill is SB 324.

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