Topeka Both sides in the public school finance battle will ask the Kansas Supreme Court today to allow schools to open as scheduled this coming school year.
"There is nothing here to close schools over," Alan Rupe, an attorney for students who won a lawsuit against the state, said Thursday. "We will be suggesting keep the schools open."
Late Wednesday, the Legislature completed a 12-day special session by approving a $148.4 million increase to schools in response to a court ruling that Kansas schools were underfunded.
At 9 a.m. today, state attorneys and Rupe will appear before the Supreme Court, which had threatened to close schools if the Legislature failed to meet its order.
The possibility of delaying the opening of schools prompted many districts, including Lawrence, to start contingency plans for the disruption of school.
But Rupe said the new legislation represented "a good-enough first step."
On the other side, Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, whose office has fought the lawsuit, said the funding package should satisfy the court.
"Those monies should be allowed to flow to the classroom without court interference," Kline said.
But Rupe said there were parts of the new measure that need fine-tuning.
And, he said, the ultimate remedy must be followed up next year when the Legislature considers an education-cost study. The court has said Kansas must fund the actual costs of education.
The new school finance bill would be funded by existing state revenues and includes $27.7 million in property tax relief. A key issue is whether the court will count those dollars as helping fulfill its mandate. Also, the court could have questions about how the new money is distributed.
The court's mandate arose from a lawsuit filed in 1999 by parents and administrators in Dodge City and Salina, who argued successfully that the state spends too little on its schools and distributes funds unfairly.
Many conservative Republicans, including House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, said the court had no authority to tell legislators how much to spend.
During the special session, the conservatives tried to advance constitutional amendments to limit the court's power, but those attempts failed.
"This court's unpredictable," Mays said. "They may think they've got the legislative branch on the run and tell us to go back and put more in. Who knows?"
Mays said Democrats and moderate Republicans appear willing to do whatever the Supreme Court wants.
"For all practical purposes, the courts have taken over the school system," Mays said.
House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney declined to predict how the court would view the plan. But he said attorneys for the state are in a better position for Friday's hearing.
"We've at least given our attorneys bullets to go into the gunfight," McKinney, D-Greensburg, said during a news conference.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)