Topeka Mediation in the Kansas school finance lawsuit "was unsuccessful," attorneys on both sides of the case said Wednesday.
In January, a three-judge panel ruled that school funding cuts made by the Kansas Legislature since 2008 were unconstitutional and ordered the state to increase school funding by $442 million, or 17 percent. Another part of the ruling dealing with school capital budgets would raise the total cost to more than $500 million.
The state appealed the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court and, in March, Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt, both Republicans, requested that the court order mediation in an effort to resolve the litigation.
The court agreed, and the two sides met with mediators on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, a joint mediation status report was filed, saying, "The mediation was unsuccessful."
Citing confidentiality agreements, neither side would say whether more meetings are scheduled.
In its order for mediation, the state Supreme Court said the talks could continue up to an Oct. 8 hearing in the case, and even later. The mediators are Deanell Tacha, dean of Pepperdine University's law school, and Topeka attorney James Steven Pigg. Tacha is the former chief judge of the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and maintains a home in Lawrence.
In 2005, the court had ordered the Legislature to increase school funding. After a bitter political fight, the Legislature relented in 2006 and approved a three-year plan to increase school finance.
But by 2008, as state revenue plummeted, cutbacks were made. A group of school districts then filed a lawsuit, claiming legislators violated the earlier agreement and continued to make funding cuts while also cutting taxes.
The mediation announcement comes one week before the Legislature reconvenes for the wrap-up session to work on a state budget and tax plan.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said the failure of mediation was no surprise. "Given that the positions of the school districts and of the governor are almost diametrically opposite, I didn't see a whole lot of prospects of mediation having much success," Davis said.
Brownback's budget proposal includes no increase in base state aid per pupil for the next school year. In his State of the State speech, Brownback also called on legislators to pass a measure defining what is suitable funding of schools, and taking that decision away from the courts.