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Kansas Supreme Court orders mediation in school funding lawsuit

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 1, 2013, at 5:16 p.m.
  • Updated Thursday, March 6, 2014, at 2:04 p.m.

The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday ordered mediation of the dispute over school finance and a stay of a decision issued earlier this year, in which a three-judge panel said state funding for public schools is unconstitutionally low.

The requests for mediation and a stay were filed last month by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, at the request of Gov. Sam Brownback.

A lead attorney for the school districts suing the state said neither order surprised him, and that his team isn’t opposed to mediation.

“Anything that would move this issue toward resolution has got to be good for the kids of Kansas,” said John Robb, lead attorney for Schools For Fair Funding, a coalition of 52 Kansas districts including Wichita.

“If this has the potential of setting Kansas on the right course for its kids, then full speed ahead and we’ll see where it goes.”

The ruling issued in January calls for lawmakers to raise the base per-pupil state aid from $3,838 to $4,492, at a cost of about $437 million statewide. Wichita’s share of the court-ordered increases would be about $59 million.

According to the court order issued Friday, parties in the lawsuit will have seven days to agree to a mediator; if they fail to agree, the court will appoint one.

The state Supreme Court also stayed the order and judgment of the three-judge panel until the appeal is heard.

“It does not come as a surprise,” Robb said of the stay. “I am encouraged that the court has indicated that this won’t slow the appeal down, because … we have said we feel that the kids of Kansas have waited long enough.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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