Archive for Friday, April 15, 2005

Supreme Court demands answers on school finance

April 15, 2005


— The Kansas Supreme Court today demanded answers on the school finance law that the Legislature recently approved.

The court did not rule on the whether the school funding proposal was constitutional.

But it set up an accelerated schedule for trying to decide the issue.

In clear language, the court said it wanted sides to provide briefs on fundamental aspects of the Republican school finance bill.

In January, the court ruled the Legislature failed to provide suitable finance for schools in the $2.7 billion system. It ordered lawmakers to increase funding based on the cost of education -- not political concerns -- and distribute that funding in a fairer manner.

The plan adopted by the Legislature increased funding by $125 million, and opened the door for local property taxes across the state that could reach nearly $500 million.

Democrats said the proposal provided inadequate funding, was based on politics to avoid a statewide tax increase, and further widened disparities between poor and wealthy districts.

Today, the court said, "Of particular concern to the court is whether the actual cost of providing a suitable education was considered as to each of these components and the financing formula as a whole, and whether House Bill 2247 exacerbates and or creates funding disparities among the districts."

The court also wants information on why the plan fails to appropriate funds for future years.

In the order signed by Chief Justice Kay McFarland, the court called for a 9:30 a.m. May 11 hearing to consider oral arguments from both sides.

Richard Olmstead, an attorney for the plaintiff school districts that successfully sued the state, said the court's order was "great."

"The Legislature reverted back to politics as usual. They didn't look at actual costs, and they threw a few bones to wealthiest districts in the state," he said.

For more on this story, see the 6News reports at 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunflower Broadband's channel 6 and pick up a copy of Saturday's Journal-World.

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