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Archive for Friday, February 22, 2013

Plaintiffs file cross-appeal in school finance lawsuit

February 22, 2013

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Plaintiffs in the Kansas school finance lawsuit say the district court did not order a big enough increase in education funding, and they're asking the state Supreme Court to order much more.

In a cross-appeal filed with the Kansas Supreme Court this week, the plaintiffs — a coalition of school districts and individuals — argue that the trial court should have ordered about $1.3 billion a year in additional spending, far more than the estimated $515 million the trial court ordered in January.

In its order last month, a three-judge panel ruled the Legislature needs to increase base per-pupil funding to $4,492, the amount currently required by statute. That's also the amount that the Supreme Court accepted as constitutional when it reviewed the last school finance case, Montoy vs. Kansas, in 2006.

Since 2009, however, the state has cut school funding in response to declining revenues brought on by the recession. Base per-pupil funding this year is set at $3,838.

Increasing the base funding amount to $4,492 would cost about $442 million, according to Kansas Department of Education estimates. The trial court also ordered increases in special education funding. It also ordered the legislature to restore "equalization aid" for the capital outlay budgets of lower-wealth districts.

The state is appealing that ruling. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has also filed motions to stay the trial court's order pending appeal and for the Supreme Court to appoint a mediator to resolve the dispute.

But in documents filed with the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the plaintiffs said they are also appealing the ruling, arguing that the trial court's award was too small. They argue that base funding should be set somewhere between $5,723 and $6,365 per pupil.

The plaintiffs cite three sources that were used in the trial to support those estimates: an update of a cost study commissioned by the Kansas Legislature by the consulting firm Augenblick and Myers; an update of another cost study performed by the Legislative Post Audit Division; and applying an inflation adjustment to the Supreme Court's order in the Montoy case.

John Robb, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said that a funding formula of $6,000 per-pupil would cost the state about $1.3 billion a year.

The plaintiffs also want the High Court to rule that education is a "fundamental right" and that by under-funding public schools, the state has denied students their rights to due process and equal protection — two claims that the trial court rejected.

The Supreme Court has not yet set a schedule for the appeal. But attorneys say that under a normal schedule, the Court would schedule oral arguments for the fall, with a decision expected around the first of next year.

Comments

fiddleback 1 year, 7 months ago

Even if the Supreme Court ends up disagreeing with the suggested higher funding level, you would think that they would be interested in expediting the scheduling and ruling of this case. If they don't rule until early 2014, that idiotic constitutional amendment cancelling judicial review of school funding will be on the ballot just a few months later in August.

History suggests that with this timeline, the legislature will just ignore any ruling for increased funding with the assumption that the amendment will get them off the hook. In '05, even with no such plan, they blew off the Supreme Court's Jan. 3 ruling to raise funding until June when the Court threatened to close all public schools. The legislature finally allocated more funds in early July. This time, even an order to close the schools before the election probably wouldn't scare them.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 7 months ago

Looks like this law firm is milking its cash cow. If the school system has enough money to hire a law firm, then they have more money than they need. Lets move on.

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fiddleback 1 year, 7 months ago

If you knew about the case you'd know that as with Montoy v. Kansas, the plaintiff party is a large collection of families, plus four school districts in Shawnee County.

You've no doubt helped to elect this off-the-deep-end cabal that wants to rewrite our constitution just so they can continually underfund the schools however much they like.

"Time to move on" -- yes, I'm sure Brownback and Co. would like nothing more. Such pesky things, these courts with their checks and balances. Why can't Sam just be given plenary power as long as we all nod along? Why rock the boat with such a great and fearless captain? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling...

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Peter Hancock 1 year, 7 months ago

The Montoy case included a coalition of school districts across the state called Schools For Fair Funding. It was not limited to Shawnee County. In fact, the name "Montoy" comes from one plaintiff child whose parents both worked in the Salina school district.

Schools For Fair Funding also initiated the current case, Gannon vs. Kansas, but a smaller number of districts are funding it. A list of SFFF members is available at http://www.robblaw.com/PDFs/zzzzz99999SFFFMemberList%202012-09-17.pdf.

The Gannon case itself focused on four districts: Kansas City USD 500; Wichita USD 259; Hutchinson USD 308; and Dodge City USD 443.

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fiddleback 1 year, 7 months ago

Thanks for further clarifying-- I should have worded my first description a bit differently. The suit was brought in Shawnee County, but like with Montoy v. Kansas, the coalition is geographically diverse, and not at all comprised of only affluent schools and families.

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