Topeka House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson, on Monday pushed for approval of a bill aimed at putting the Kansas Legislature in a better position to fight a school finance lawsuit.
“These are the rules of engagement once you get in litigation,” O’Neal told the House Education Budget Committee.
A lawsuit has been filed by a group of 63 school districts that alleges the state has violated the Kansas Constitution by inadequately funding education.
A 2006 legal settlement before the Kansas Supreme Court produced a three-year school funding plan, but since then school funding has been cut by more than $300 million. Legislators are considering further cuts to schools for the next school year.
Under House Bill 2397, the court would have to base its judgment on the current lawsuit on whether the funds appropriated by the Legislature were adequate to cover the costs of required areas of instruction.
But school advocates said O’Neal’s definition of required education costs was too narrow because it didn’t include many costs that school districts experience, such as buying insurance and providing student transportation.
And the bill states that in determining adequacy of funding, state appropriations for federally required programs would not be considered by the court.
That raised questions about whether the state could shirk its responsibility to fund federally required special education. But O’Neal said the state would continue funding special education.
Rep. Lana Gordon, R-Topeka and chair of the Education Budget Committee, said she was unsure when the panel would work on O’Neal’s bill.