Archive for Saturday, May 29, 2004

A.G. wants judge off of school case

Brief filed with Supreme Court says rulings have politicized funding issue

May 29, 2004


A court ruling that declared Kansas' school finance system unconstitutional is "deeply flawed" and should be overturned, state attorneys argued Friday in a legal brief filed with the Kansas Supreme Court.

The brief, signed by Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, also seeks to remove Shawnee County District Court Judge Terry Bullock from the case, accusing the judge of failing to remain impartial and making disparaging comments.

"Judge Bullock's rulings have politicized education issues unnecessarily, by making gratuitously disparaging remarks about the positions taken in this litigation by the state, and by its Legislature and counsel," the brief said.

Bullock could not be reached for comment. He generally will not comment on the case outside of his court orders and filings.

The legal salvo was filed in preparation for Sept. 2 oral arguments in an appeal before the Kansas Supreme Court.

Bullock ruled in December that Kansas underfunded all public schools, especially those with high minority student populations. He gave lawmakers until July 1 to fix the inequities, an order the Legislature ignored.

Earlier this month, Bullock said he would order a halt to all school spending June 30. The Kansas Supreme Court put that order on hold.

State attorneys said Bullock had overstepped his authority and that the distribution of education funding was strictly a legislative decision.

The attorneys also argued that Bullock's conclusion that funding deficiencies hurt minorities more than whites did not establish a constitutional violation because "the Legislature did not act with discriminatory intent."

Also Friday, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said the Legislature's failure to increase school funding this year would cause painful cuts in districts across the state. Base per-pupil state aid has remained stagnant since 2001.

"We're now talking about cutting teachers and programs. They're really down to the meat of education," she said.

Sebelius, who pushed for tax increases to help schools, said she hoped parents would get involved and back candidates in November who would support schools. All 165 seats in the Kansas Legislature are up for election this year.

She also defended her opposition to the final plan of the legislative session that would have increased school funding by $82 million by taking money from the highway program.

She said the proposal would have put the state in a bigger financial hole.

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