Parkinson opposes lawsuit by schools

? Gov. Mark Parkinson on Friday criticized a move by a coalition of schools to sue the state over school funding.

“Kansas has faced some extremely challenging times over the past two years, but we cannot sue our way out of them. We must come together and find solutions,” Parkinson told the Lawrence Journal-World.

Schools for Fair Funding on Thursday notified the state that it intends to file a new school finance lawsuit, alleging that recent education cuts are unconstitutional.

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 during several rounds of budget cuts. In the past 16 months, as the state sank into a recession, public school funding was cut by $303 million, according to the coalition.

But Parkinson said a bipartisan group of legislators worked hard in the past legislative session to approve a temporary 1-cent increase in the state sales tax to avoid further cuts.

Attorneys for the coalition of 72 school districts, however, said that isn’t good enough, given that in past years the Legislature passed tax cuts despite the need to fulfill promised increases in school funding.

“Kansas law and the Kansas Constitution require that schools be funded to adequate levels. That simply has not happened and our kids’ future again depends on the court system making the Legislature live up to its statutory and constitutional responsibilities,” said Alan Rupe, trial counsel for Schools for Fair Funding.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed in Shawnee County in October and may go to trial in late 2011.