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KS: State unprepared for potential loss in school funding lawsuit

By   /   September 6, 2012  /   2 Comments

Legislators say the state has done nothing to prepare for a potential loss in Kansas’ latest school funding lawsuit, which is seeking $1.5 billion for public schools.

By Travis Perry │ Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE — While most observers say a verdict in Kansaslatest 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.

Closing arguments wrapped up at Shawnee County District Courthouse on Aug. 29. No matter the outcome, the case is expected to be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Sen. Jean Schodorf

State Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, criticized her fellow legislators and Gov. Sam Brownback for doing nothing to prepare for what she sees as an impending loss.

“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.

Rep. Clay Aurand

“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.”

Contact Travis Perry at travis@kansaswatchdog.org, or follow him on twitter at @kansaswatchdog.

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Travis Perry is an investigative reporter covering news and politics for Watchdog.org's Kansas bureau. Before joining the organization, Travis graduated cum laude from Washburn University and cut his teeth as news editor for the Osawatomie Graphic, where he received numerous awards from the Kansas Press Association.

  • Facts Not Fox

    When the Kansas Legislature fails again to support what the people of Kansas demand,that is,adequate funding for public education,it’s time for the courts to take over.
    54 school districts know how hard is is to provide a good education with increasing limited resources.
    The majority of Kansans support fair funding for schools.Too bad the new conservative majority can’t get the message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joeteach Joe Conner

    What kind of results are you looking for Lana Gordon. How can you expect the teachers of this state to put forth the extra effort needed to affect change when you are not willing to pay them a decent wage that a Masters Degree should command?

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