Painful to see suit proceed

No surprise that the Wichita school board voted Monday to make its support of Schools for Fair Funding official, or that the decision by the state's largest district means the coalition will proceed with plans to revive the school-finance lawsuit against the state.

With Wichita's enrollment representing more than a third of the coalition's total 136,000 students in 53 districts, Wichita's participation gives the suit heft and legitimacy as well as financial fuel — $144,600 this school year.

And let it be said again that the school districts have a persuasive case, given the ground they've lost since the 2005 Montoy decision in their favor forced the Legislature to ramp up K-12 funding by $600 million statewide over three years.

But hauling the state into court is not a good way to "make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state," quoting the key words of the Kansas Constitution. Especially amid this historic budget crisis, the suing districts will be viewed with resentment by the state legislators convening in Topeka next week.

K-12 schools already get more than half the money in the state general-fund budget. With tax increases off the table in many minds, meeting the demand of schools for a bigger piece of a shrinking revenue pie would necessitate awful cuts to the rest of state-funded services.

Though Schools for Fair Funding's revived legal action could take a while, the threat of it might even be enough to revive some the worst ideas of the state's 2005-06 school-finance high noon, such as measures to bar the courts from adjudicating school-funding cases or delete that pesky "suitable" from the constitution.

Then there's the pain of seeing tax dollars spent suing for more tax dollars.

Having seen $34 million in state funding cut for the current year, Wichita school board members believe they're doing what's necessary for the kids. Maybe they are long term. But for now, they shouldn't expect many taxpayers to be cheering them on.