Archive for Saturday, June 4, 2005

School finance timeline

June 4, 2005, 12:00 a.m. Updated July 5, 2005, 4:32 p.m.


Note: this online version has been updated to reflect developments in the school finance controversy subsequent to the story's original publication date.

Below is a chronology of important events related to the state's system for financing its public schools.

¢ Nov. 8, 1966: Voters approve a constitutional amendment establishing a 10-member State Board of Education having "general supervision" over public schools, with the Legislature required to "make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state."

¢ Sept. 10, 1990: Officials with 31 school districts file a lawsuit challenging the legality of the state's school finance formula, saying they do not receive a big enough share of the funding for elementary and secondary education.

¢ Oct. 14, 1991: Shawnee County District Judge Terry Bullock sets the general legal guidelines he will use in considering what are now four consolidated lawsuits filed against the state by more than 40 school districts. He says the state has a duty under its constitution to provide a suitable education to all children.

¢ May 5, 1992: The Legislature approves a new school finance formula. Bullock later dismisses the four pending lawsuits.

¢ Aug. 24, 1992: The Blue Valley school district files a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court against the new law. Sixteen other districts later challenge the law.

¢ Dec. 16, 1993: Shawnee County District Judge Marla Luckert rules that the Legislature must fix two significant flaws in its 1992 school finance law, but upholds the rest of it. The state and some districts appeal.

¢ Dec. 2, 1994: A unanimous Kansas Supreme Court upholds the entire 1992 school finance law as constitutional.

¢ May 21, 1999: Parents and administrators in the Dodge City and Salina school districts sue the state, arguing that Kansas provides too little money to its schools and distributes the money unfairly, hurting poor and minority students.

¢ Nov. 21, 2001: Bullock dismisses the lawsuit.

¢ Jan. 24, 2003: The Kansas Supreme Court reverses Bullock's decision to dismiss the case, ordering a trial in Shawnee County District Court.

¢ Sept. 22-Oct. 1, and Nov. 25, 2003: Bullock hears testimony and closing arguments in the school finance lawsuit.

¢ Dec. 2, 2003: Bullock issues preliminary order saying the school finance formula is unconstitutional, and he tells the Legislature and executive branch to fix the flaws.

¢ Jan. 12, 2004: The 2004 Legislature convenes. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius outlines a proposal to raise sales, property and individual income taxes so the state can phase in a $304 million increase in education spending over three years.

¢ Feb. 24, 2004: A bill allowing the state to appeal Bullock's preliminary order wins final legislative approval. Sebelius signs it three days later.

¢ March 8, 2004: The state appeals Bullock's preliminary order. The State Board of Education later appeals, as well.

¢ April 7, 2004: The Kansas Supreme Court takes steps to review Bullock's preliminary ruling, setting deadlines for parties in the case to file legal briefs with the justices.

¢ May 8, 2004: Legislators adjourn their session without approving any changes in the school finance formula. Their action leaves school funding at a status-quo amount of $2.7 billion of state aid for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

¢ May 11, 2004: Bullock declares that the state cannot spend any money on its schools after June 30 - shutting them down - until the flaws in Kansas' finance formula are fixed.

¢ May, 19, 2004: The Kansas Supreme Court stays Bullock's order, keeping schools open for the 2004-05 school year.

¢ Aug. 30, 2004: The Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments from attorneys for the state, State Board of Education and the plaintiff school districts.

¢ Jan. 3, 2005: Justices rule that legislators have failed to fulfill their constitutional duty to fund Kansas schools and orders changes in the school finance formula. Legislators have until April 12 to fix problems identified by the justices, including increasing funding.

¢ March 30, 2005: Legislators pass a $142 million school finance package, relying on existing state revenues. The plan also allows local districts to increase local property taxes to fund extra programs.

¢ April 6, 2005: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius files the Legislature's plan with the court for review.

¢ May 11, 2005: The Kansas Supreme Court hears arguments from attorneys regarding the Legislature's plan to determine if the package satisfied the Jan. 3 ruling.

¢ June 3, 2005: Justices declare the Legislature's package inadequate and order them to increase its total size to $285 million by July 1, forcing a special session.

Updated developments:

¢ June 6, 2005: Gov. Kathleen Sebelius announces she will call the Legislature into a special session, to begin June 22, to meet the July 1 deadline to raise another $143 million for schools.

¢ June 22, 2005: Legislature goes into special session, but many Republican lawmakers reluctant to let Supreme Court dictate how much should be spent on schools and want to amend the state constitution.

¢ July 1, 2005: Legislature fails to meet July 1 deadline, continues working toward compromise on House and Senate school funding plans. Some legislators wanted to approve changes in the state constitution to limit the court's power. An impasse on that issue held up passage of an education funding bill.

¢ July 2, 2005: Legislature still at loggerheads; Supreme Court issues order for attorneys in the school finance lawsuit to appear July 8 for the court to consider closing schools. Legislative leaders decide late in day to adjourn for a three-day break, to return July 6.


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