Topeka Attorneys representing state government on Friday urged the Kansas Supreme Court to dismiss the school finance lawsuit.
"The massive increase in total funding, and the changes to the allocation of those funds, all respond directly to the issues of concern to this court," Alok Ahuja, an attorney with Lathrop & Gage LC of Overland Park, said in a legal brief filed on behalf of the attorney general's office.
But attorneys representing school boards, teachers and parents say the $3.5 billion funding system for schools still falls short.
Legal briefs for the Kansas National Education Assn., Kansas Association of School Boards and Kansas Families United for Public Education asked the court to reject the Legislature's latest school finance bill.
Last month, legislators approved and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed into law a three-year, $466 million increase for schools. In addition, last year the Legislature approved a $290 million increase.
The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanges all students, especially those in low-income areas.
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)
Ahuja said in his legal argument that the recent increases and changes in how the funds are distributed have made the finance system constitutional.
But school districts who successfully sued the state said the Legislature ignored a court-ordered cost study that called for a minimum increase of $400 million in the next school year.
That cost study was done by the Legislature's own Division of Post Audit. But Ahuja said the study was "a policy tool, not an absolute indicator of the constitutional threshold for state K-12 funding."
School advocates disagreed.
The Kansas Association of School Boards said the Legislature continued to ignore the court's order that the actual cost of education be determined to devise a finance plan.
The Kansas National Education Assn. noted that although the Legislature adopted a three-year funding plan, there is no promise to fund the next two years.
And Kansas Families United for Public Education said the Legislature's handiwork missed the target by more than $300 million over the next three years.
"Further delay in adequacy and equity for all Kansas school children is intolerable," the group said.
The battle of legal briefs also featured an entry from Kansas University law professor Stephen McAllister, who recently was appointed to the new position of legislative counsel, which provides legal advice to the Legislature.
He argued that recent school funding increases were generous and that the court should back off or it could be overreaching its authority.
"The Legislature has acted responsibly and the court should terminate its participation in this quintessential political process," McAllister wrote.
He said absent a finding that the school finance formula intentionally discriminates, the court should dismiss the case.
"Any more intrusive role simply substitutes the judgment of six unelected justices for the collective judgment, study and political compromise of our Legislature and the governor who answer directly to the people of Kansas for their votes and official actions," he said.
The Kansas State Board of Education also asked the court to dismiss the suit.
Plaintiff school districts are scheduled to submit their written arguments by June 12.
Oral arguments before the court on the issue are set for June 22.