School group to sue state over education funding

SALINA — Dozens of Kansas school districts, including Wichita, have decided they want to sue the state over education funding.

Representatives from about 60 school districts unanimously voted today to ask the state Supreme Court to reopen a 2005 lawsuit.

The action would ask the court to decide whether the funding formula legislators created in response to the 2005 suit — and this year's state education budget cuts — are constitutional, said John Robb, the lead attorney for the Schools for Fair Funding group.

Reopening the old lawsuit, while unusual, would cut six months off the time leading to a trial, he said. If the Supreme Court refuses to open the case, the school districts would consider a new lawsuit.

Three Wichita school board members, along with superintendent John Allison, attended today's meeting in Salina. They said they support the group's resolution to reopen the suit.

"This is the way to begin," said board president Barbara Fuller. "The suit already exists and is very specific in nature. It is the right thing to do."

The legal action will cost school districts more to be members of the fair funding group, Robb said, but it will take a few weeks to get official confirmation of which districts want to be part of the suit.

A motion to reopen the lawsuit probably will happen in the next month, he said.

School leaders said the recession isn't the only reason the state has reduced how much money it doles out per student, but more than $1 billion in tax reductions passed since 1995 exacerbate the shortfalls in tax revenue.

The last four times educators have asked legislators to change how schools are funded, it took court intervention for lawmakers to take action, Robb said.