Schmidt Wants School Funding Hearing Partially Thrown Out | Hensley Disagrees

Gov. Sam Brownback signs controversial school funding bill on April 21, 2014 (WIBW)
By  | 

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- A Shawnee county court judge is calling for a hearing to argue whether Kansas obeyed a Supreme Court order to increase funding to poor school districts in the state.

Judge Franklin Theis wants to know whether the Kansas Legislature is in compliance with a state Supreme Court Order that the state equalize funding between poorer and wealthier districts, a disparity some analysts said would mean an extra $129 million.

Friday morning Judge Franklin Theis set a May 16th date for parties involved in the Luke Gannon vs The State of Kansas to file arguments as to whether a bill signed by Governor Brownback on April 21st complies with the Supreme Court Order.

Theis said he wants to see if either side believes any part of the new law would be challenged in future lawsuits.

Specifically Theis asks if the funding sources in the senate bill meet the requirements to provide equity in smaller Kansas school districts.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt responded by asking the three judge panel that will hear the case to dismiss part of it. He said the bill fully funds equalization aid for school districts' local option budgets and capital outlay budget.

“Because those constitutional infirmities are now cured, there is nothing more for the panel to do with regard to the equity claims,” wrote Schmidt.

Senate Minority Leader and Democrat Anthony Hensley disagrees, saying, "I'm not as confident as the Attorney General when he said this whole thing cured the problem. I'm not sure it does cure the problem and the court is going to make that determination. Some of the many that is being shifted between school districts came from what is called at-risk funding and so that's a legal issue they'll have to look at."

Theis advised that he has set a June 11 date for oral arguments on the adequacy of the new school funding law. Friends of both sides have until May 30th to file their own arguments.

Panel will see whether the funding mechanisms passed by the legislature give poorer school districts reasonable access to similar educational opportunities.

If they decide there is no curative action by July 1st, the three judge panel will prohibit transfers from the state general fund to the school district capital outlay, so that money will be available to schools. The panel will also stop any district from using the local option budget funding mechanisms to come up with additional money.

Posted by: Justin Surrency, Nick Viviani