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Kansas Schools Sue Over Funding

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By Tanya Roth, Esq. on November 03, 2010 12:56 PM

A push-pull on school spending is a constant in many states. In California, it is part of the political landscape. In Kansas, it is now part of the legal landscape with a new lawsuit over cuts in funds to Kansas schools. A group of 63 school districts in Kansas filed suit on November 1, claiming that the legislature's cuts in funding violate the state constitution.

The plaintiffs in the suit say that despite a 2005 agreement to fund Kansas schools at a set level, state lawmakers have cut at least $303 million from the schools, according to the Kansas City Star. There are two opposing views on the situation that led to the suit. John Robb, an attorney for plaintiffs in the suit, says intentional revenue cuts allowed lawmakers to "plead poverty" when the time came to pay for school funding.

On the other side of the question are legislators such as state Senate Vice President John Vratil. Vratil tells The Star the state can't give what it doesn't have. Vratil believes the legislature had no choice in this bad economy but to make cuts, and he hopes the state's highest court will consider the situation when they make their decision.

One school district superintendent, Bart Goering, said his school board discussed joining the lawsuit, but eventually decided against it. "Everybody is cutting back and they just felt we shouldn't go after money the state doesn't have," he told The Star.

It may be years before the case makes its way through the state courts to a final hearing before the Kansas Supreme Court. In the meantime, reports The Star, there are several outcomes which could render the case moot. According to John Vratil, the legislature could change the school funding formula, or they could increase funds when the economy recovers.

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