School finance attorney criticizes budget cuts

? An attorney who represented school districts that successfully sued the state to get more education funding said Friday that lawmakers have ignored the Kansas Constitution in the recent rounds of cutting school funding.

“The Legislature has been completely focused on efforts to balance the budget without raising taxes,” said John Robb of Newton. “No consideration has been given to what the constitution requires in regards to funding education.”

That is a key issue, Robb said, because in the 2005 school finance lawsuit ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state needed to find out what it costs to educate students and fund that amount.

“The Constitution does not say to fund education if you can do it without a tax increase. It is no more unconstitutional for the state to deficit spend than it is to underfund education. Both are equally unconstitutional,” he said.

Since the start of the year, lawmakers have cut school funding by nearly $130 million as part of an effort to balance the budget. But Robb said he doesn’t know whether the budget cuts will prompt another school finance lawsuit.

“The schools understand that state revenues are off due to the economy. At the same time, the districts are faced with increasing state and federal performance standards and increasing costs,” he said.

The Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, however, issued a news release that said lawmakers should have considered more cuts to public education before it cut more from public safety.