By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog
OSAWATOMIE — While most observers say a verdict in Kansas’ latest school funding lawsuit could go either way, legislators say the state has done little to brace for the monetary implications of a loss.
Sometime during the next three months, a special three-judge panel will announce its decision on the lawsuit, which was brought against the state by a coalition of 54 Kansas school districts, Schools for Fair Funding.
Newton Attorney John Robb represents the group along with Wichita attorney Alan Rupe, and said the group is seeking $1.5 billion they contend is owed to Kansas public schools.
“This is the way state government works,” Schodorf said. “Nothing will be done to face the music until this case is appealed to the Supreme Court and the court rules again that we need to fund schools. The governor and the Legislature know the decision on the lawsuit isn’t imminent for a year from now.”
The governor’s office did not respond to repeated calls seeking comment.
Kansas lost its last school-funding lawsuit in 2006, when the court ordered $755 million injected into public education. The current litigation was filed after legislators began reducing funding again during the Great Recession in 2008.
Rep. Clay Aurand, R-Belleville, said there simply isn’t a clear path moving forward.
“We’re dealing with the here and now and trying to guess. It’s hard to put a plan together when you don’t know exactly what you’re going to be faced with,” Aurand said. “I think at this point, we kind of almost have to wait and react.”
While Aurand said there isn’t anything the state can do now, he blamed the Senate for not requiring school districts to use their local option budget, which allows them to levy a property tax to raise money. Because it is optional, Aurand said, LOB taxing authority hasn’t been taken into consideration during the litigation.
For now, there isn’t anything left to do but wait, speculate and, for some, lament.
“It’s really unfortunate to see one entity, the schools, suing the state for more money, especially when we aren’t seeing academic results, either,” said Rep. Lana Gordon, R-Topeka. “It’s somewhat distressing to see the state having to go through this again.”