Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2010

Statehouse Live: Notice filed for new school finance lawsuit

A coalition of Kansas school districts has notified the state that it plans to file a new lawsuit after funding cuts. The group believes the cuts were unconstitutional.

June 17, 2010, 4:46 p.m. Updated June 17, 2010, 6:03 p.m.


A coalition of Kansas school districts on Thursday notified the state that it intends to file a new school finance lawsuit, alleging that recent education cuts are unconstitutional.

“The Legislature has not kept the promise made by the Constitution to the kids of Kansas,” said John Robb, general counsel for Schools for Fair Funding.

The group won significant increases in school funding in 2005 and 2006 when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the school finance formula failed to adequately and equitably fund schools.

But much of that has been rolled back in recent months during several rounds of budget cuts. In 16 months, public schools have been cut $303 million, according to the coalition.

In the recently completed legislative session, officials approved a temporary 1-cent state sales tax increase, which has stopped the cuts “but has done nothing to repair the damage already done,” Robb said.

State leaders have argued that the school cuts were required because of the state’s record drop in tax revenues during the recession.

But the coalition’s attorneys haven’t bought that argument.

Alan Rupe, trial counsel for Schools for Fair Funding, said the Legislature approved a three-year school funding plan without providing the adequate resources to fund it. On top of that, he said, the Legislature cut taxes, and handed out tax exemptions and abatements.

Gov. Mark Parkinson’s office declined to comment, saying it needed more time to review the filing.

In February, the Kansas Supreme Court denied a petition to reopen the former school finance lawsuit. At that time Parkinson said, “From the outset I have been disappointed that any recipient of public funds would sue the state over budget reductions. We are in an unprecedented crisis and the proper response as Kansans is to pull together and not sue each other. However, we have a responsibility to fund education at an acceptable level even during a recession.”

By filing the notice, Schools for Fair Funding is fulfilling a legal requirement before a new lawsuit can be filed. Robb said the lawsuit will probably be filed in October in Shawnee County and may go to trial in the latter part of 2011.

The group includes 72 school districts with more than 164,000 students, including Wichita, Kansas City, Dodge City and Hutchinson. The Lawrence district is not a member.


anon1958 8 years ago

Kansans just need to pay a tax rate for the 21st century instead of the 19th. Its like this, put up (change the state constitution) or shut up.

Alternatively, elect some representatives that are not morons.

KS 8 years ago

When will these people ever learn? There is no more money in the well and they want to suck the last bit of blood from the bottom! They think they are being treated unfairly, but drive around the state and see the multimillion dollar schools that are or have been built. A new school does not necessarily produce a better qualify of education outcome. This is just bizarre. I hope the Legislature stands up to the courts on this one. They can cut their costs just like eveyone else. This just confirms the old addage, that those that can, do and those that can't, teach.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years ago

I don't know how many times it's been stated, thousands perhaps, that capital outlay funds (money used for buildings, facilities, athletic fields, etc.) is not available to cover teachers sallaries or operations. You look like a fool when you use that as your argument. Furthermore, this has very little to do with teachers. We have great teachers in the state of Kansas who are challenged every year to do more with less and every year they step up and do it. The base salaries are very low, most first year teachers would probably qualify for public assistance. It's time the state fulfills their legal obligation (as decided by the supreme court five years ago) and give the districts enough money to cover the costs of the increasing demands the state has put on them.

olddognewtrix 8 years ago

The Mike Oneal Republican dominated Kansas Legislature feels it can thumb its nose at the already deterrmined Kansas Constitutional obligation to adequetly fund K-12 education in the State as per the earlier lawsuits, by pleading poverty. But it can find ways to curry the favor of Koch Industries, Boeing and ATt by tax breaks.. Arrogance, arrogance!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

Yep-- you can bet that the Koch brothers will be telling their lackeys in the legislature that we don't need no steenking education.

Richard Heckler 8 years ago

If Kansas can afford tax abatements and other big government tax dollar give aways Kansas surely can see the value in education.

Retail centers and other large corporate big government tax dollar hunters rarely pay back the taxpayers. Why should wealthy corporations receive big government tax dollar handouts?

Public Education is a best bang for the tax buck. Education prepares our children to become skilled employees,college graduates and small business owners. Yes this is where NEW economic growth begins.

anitliars 8 years ago

Agreed - Education is (or should be) a priority for government. Roads (infrastructure), military (safety protections) and education are the primary things government can do for us that we have a harder time doing individually. So a lot of OTHER things can/should be cut back first, before education.

However - How does spending a ton of money on law suits help? It doesn't make sense to spend more money to try force more money out of an economy that is barely making it. The Law makers (thick as some may be) understand that education must be a priority (even if they don't value it themselves, they are reminded about the Constitutional issues involved, and the economic benefits garnered, a lot). Going to court over such matters turns what is essentially a political and policy issue into a costly parade of egos and hurt feelings. Spend your money more wisely school systems....

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