Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Senators seek to speed up school finance lawsuit

January 21, 2004


— Two senators have drafted a bill to allow a quick appeal of a district judge's ruling on school finance to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Sens. John Vratil, R-Leawood, and Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, said Tuesday their measure would change when an appeal may be made from a preliminary order by a district court. They planned to file the legislation Wednesday.

At issue is a Dec. 2 preliminary ruling by Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock. Bullock found constitutional flaws in how Kansas distributes more than $2.6 billion in state aid to schools and gave legislators until July 1 to make repairs.

Bullock later rejected a request from the State Board of Education to permit an immediate Kansas Supreme Court review.

Schmidt said the legislation would speed resolution of the case, which began with a 1999 lawsuit filed by parents and administrators in the Salina and Dodge City school districts.

"It's not responsible to take a billion-dollar gamble that any changes made this year in school finance will meet with the Supreme Court's approval, but it's not acceptable to delay and do nothing," Schmidt said.

The change would apply only when a preliminary order or final decision of a lower court holds that a law violates the Kansas Constitution's education article. The change would expire on July 1, 2006.

Bullock ruled that the 1992 state law for distributing school funds was unconstitutional because it hurt poor and minority students and their scores on standardized achievement tests.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has proposed to raise state aid to schools by $304 million over three years through higher taxes on sales, property and personal income. Legislative leaders have said they prefer to wait on a Supreme Court ruling.

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