Archive for Friday, July 28, 2006

Zoellner happy to see ruling

Kansas Supreme Court dismisses school finance lawsuit

July 28, 2006

De Soto USD 232 Superintendent Sharon Zoellner says she's grateful for the closure provided by Friday's Kansas Supreme Court ruling.

"As of today, it provides closure for us getting our budget ready," she said. "That's a positive thing from our perspective."

The ruling dismissed the school finance lawsuit, originally called Montoy vs. State, that has been going through the Kansas court system since 2001. The lawsuit alleged that the state method for funding Kansas schools unconstitutionally distributed funds between districts. After being ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court to come up with a new funding plan last year, the Legislature agreed to a one-year plan for 2005-06.

The 2006 Legislature gave additional funding for schools for the next three years.

The plaintiffs in the case, however, argued that these plans still did not provide enough funding for Kansas schools to meet state and federal education requirements.

In a 4-2 decision, the Kansas high court voted to dismiss the case.

School districts across the state received their budget paperwork from the State Department of Education last week, which will allow them to begin the planning process. An Aug. 25 deadline to approve budgets doesn't leave them much time, however.

In USD 232, teacher negotiations have also been on hold until administrators know how much money they'll get from the state.

Zoellner said the district would need further analysis to find out what the ruling means for De Soto. In the first year, the district was already planned to lose about $800,000 with the 2006 school finance plan -- but that's because they're not getting funding for new buildings that they received in 2004 and 2005. The loss of funds doesn't have anything to do with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling or Senate Bill 549, Zoellner said.

The majority ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court did not say whether Senate Bill 549 was constitutional. Instead, the opinion stated that the plan is separate than the one presented to the court in 2001, and a new lawsuit would have to be filed to evaluate the Legislature's 2006 school finance plan.

".. the legislature materially and fundamentally changed the way K-12 is funded in this state..." the majority opinion read. "... the school finance formula challenged by the plaintiffs no longer exists, and thus, the case is moot."

The 2006 school finance plan allows districts across the state to increase the local option budget from 27 percent of each district's individual general fund to 30 percent of the general fund. It would bring about $1.2 million to De Soto.

Kathy Cook, executive director of the Shawnee-based Kansas Families United for Public Education, said Friday's ruling was a disappointment.

"I think the thing that's most disappointing is that they aren't watching over the Legislature," Cook said. "So we have no idea if those promises in years two and three (of the 2006 school finance plan) will be fulfilled, since they haven't kept their promises to kids in the past."

Cook said her organization would support any group that decided to bring another lawsuit to evaluate the constitutionality of the 2006 school finance plan.



The ruling dismissed the school finance lawsuit, originally called Montoy vs. State, that has been going through the Kansas court system since 2001. The lawsuit alleged that the state method for funding Kansas schools unconstitutionally distributed funds between districts. After being ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court to come up with a new funding plan last year, the Legislature agreed to a one-year plan for 2005-06.

The 2006 Legislature gave additional funding for schools for the next three years.

The plaintiffs in the case, however, argued that these plans still did not provide enough funding for Kansas schools to meet state and federal education requirements.

In a 4-2 decision, the Kansas high court voted to dismiss the case.

School districts across the state received their budget paperwork from the State Department of Education last week, which will allow them to begin the planning process. An Aug. 25 deadline to approve budgets doesn't leave them much time, however.

In USD 232, teacher negotiations have also been on hold until administrators know how much money they'll get from the state.

Zoellner said the district would need further analysis to find out what the ruling means for De Soto. In the first year, the district was already planned to lose about $800,000 with the 2006 school finance plan -- but that's because they're not getting funding for new buildings that they received in 2004 and 2005. The loss of funds doesn't have anything to do with the Kansas Supreme Court ruling or Senate Bill 549, Zoellner said.

The majority ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court did not say whether Senate Bill 549 was constitutional. Instead, the opinion stated that the plan is separate than the one presented to the court in 2001, and a new lawsuit would have to be filed to evaluate the Legislature's 2006 school finance plan.

".. the legislature materially and fundamentally changed the way K-12 is funded in this state..." the majority opinion read. "... the school finance formula challenged by the plaintiffs no longer exists, and thus, the case is moot."

The 2006 school finance plan allows districts across the state to increase the local option budget from 27 percent of each district's individual general fund to 30 percent of the general fund. It would bring about $1.2 million to De Soto.

Kathy Cook, executive director of the Shawnee-based Kansas Families United for Public Education, said Friday's ruling was a disappointment.

"I think the thing that's most disappointing is that they aren't watching over the Legislature," Cook said. "So we have no idea if those promises in years two and three (of the 2006 school finance plan) will be fulfilled, since they haven't kept their promises to kids in the past."

Cook said her organization would support any group that decided to bring another lawsuit to evaluate the constitutionality of the 2006 school finance plan.

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