Latest Kansas school finance trial starts
TOPEKA The fight over public school funding in Kansas returns to court this morning when a lawsuit filed by 54 districts goes to trial in Shawnee County. /ppThe school districts sued in 2010, accusing the state of reneging on its promise to maintain suitable levels of funding for education. Attorneys expect the trial to last up to three weeks. /ppIt is the second time in a decade that the Kansas school finance formula has been under judicial scrutiny. The last dispute resulted in legislators increasing school spending by nearly $1 billion. /ppBut state lawmakers began cutting back that funding as state revenues declined during the Great Recession, and eventually school districts and parents filed the new lawsuit to compel the state to restore funding. Any decision in the case is almost certain to be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. /ppThe trial will be before a three-judge panel. The format is a change from the last time, when the lawsuit was heard and decided at the lower court by Judge Terry Bullock. Legislators created the new format specifically for school litigation. Hearing the case are Judges Franklin Theis, Robert Fleming and Jack Burr. This will be the first school funding case any of them have heard. /ppThe school districts and parents are represented by Wichita attorneys John Robb of Newton and Alan Rupe. Both have been involved with school finance litigation for more than two decades in Kansas, including the case that ended in 2006. /ppThe state, represented by Arthur Chalmers, a Wichita attorney hired by Attorney General Derek Schmidts office, contends that current funding levels are constitutional and the Legislature has the right to set funding levels based on available state revenues. /ppAttorney General Derek Schmidt, a former Senate majority leader, has said legislators took steps during the recession to mitigate cuts to education by using federal stimulus dollars, as well as increasing the state sales tax in 2010.