Danedri Thompson
Schools for Fair Funding (SFFF) is moving forward with  plans to sue the state legislature. The lobbying group comprised of Kansas school districts filed a “notice of claims” with the Kansas Senate and Kansas House of
Representatives last week. The Gardner Edgerton School District is one of the organization’s 72 member districts.
SFFF successfully sued the state for additional school funding in 2005, and now Kansas law requires that those wishing to sue the state must file a notice of claims at least 120 days before a new lawsuit can commence.
Earlier this year, attorneys for the group asked that Kansas Supreme Court re-open their succesful 2005 school finance case, which argued that the state’s school funding formula was not equitable. The request to re-open the case was denied.
According to a press release from SFFF, the organization anticipates filing a new lawsuit by October. The new case will argue that recent education cuts have made school funding levels inadequate.
The claim notice names school districts in Wichita, Kansas City, Kan., Dodge City and Hutchinson as plaintiffs in the case, although the Gardner district and other schools will help fund the suit through their membership in SFFF.
The state of Kansas, Gov. Mark Parkinson, the state Department of Education, the Commissioner of Education and 10 elected members of the state board of education are named as defendants.
Following the 2005 lawsuit, the legislature adopted a three-year plan to bump up school funding by $755 million, but legislators have made dramatic cuts to education in the last two years. With revenues not meeting projections, legislators and Gov.  Parkinson have made more than $303 million in education cuts since 2009.
John Robb, general counsel for SFFF, said in a press release last week that budget cuts were preventable and only partly related to the current recession.
“Recent legislative action has stopped the bleeding for now, but has done nothing to repair the damage already done… The legislature has simply not kept the promise made by the Constitution to the kids of Kansas,” Robb said.
Alan Rupe, trial counsel for the organization, said recent education cuts are the result of legislators’ unwillingness to increase revenue.
“The Kansas Legislature knew when it adopted the three-year plan there was no way to fund it without revenue increases,” Rupe said in a press release.
“Yet, it continued to cut taxes, offer abatements and hand out tax exemptions knowing that it could not fund the plan. Then the recession hit and aggravated the problem more.”
Rep. Mike Kiegerl, who represents Gardner, Edgerton and part of Olathe and part of Spring Hill in the Kansas Legislature said if SFFF is successful, they will be confronted with the fact that the state has no money.
“The only winners in this lawsuit are going to be the lawyers,” he said. “Are we going to have a situation like in Kansas City, Mo. when the courts took over the school system, raised taxes several billion dollars and are still unaccredited? That would certainly be a nightmare.”