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USD 410 joins Schools for Fair Funding

Other districts discuss, will make decisions later

Staff writers

Hillsboro USD 410 Board of Education voted Monday to join Schools for Fair Funding, a group that successfully sued the State of Kansas for more school funding in 2005. The organization wants to re-open the lawsuit because of funding cuts.

Centre, Goessel, Marion, and Peabody-Burns school boards discussed joining but took no action.

Schools for Fair Funding sued the state in 1999. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Jan. 3, 2005, that the state Legislature failed to meet its burden to “make suitable provision for finance” of public schools, according to a report by Kansas Legislative Research Department.

“It is clear increased funding will be required,” the court’s opinion said.

The case was Montoy, et al. vs. State of Kansas, et al. The court opinion said local option budgets were originally intended to pay for extra expenses, but some districts have been forced to use local option budgets to fund general education.

USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble said the local option budget is about 25 percent of the total budget. It has gone from paying for options to needs, he said.

State aid per pupil increased from $3,863 in 2004-05 to $4,257 in 2005-06. Since then it has fallen to $4,218 for 2009-10.

He said the state Legislature’s solution to rising costs would be school consolidation. Legislators consider schools in Marion County ideal for consolidation, based only on population and enrollment, he said.

If the state had continued to follow the formula established after the lawsuit, USD 410 would have received about $379,000 more for 2009-10 than it did.

USD 410 board member Rod Koons said he had heard someone ask why the board would spend tax money to sue the state, but he thinks that is what it will take to get adequate funding. Dues for Schools for Fair Funding are $2 per full-time equivalent, or about $1,200 for USD 410.

Noble told board members there likely would be political backlash if the district joined, but the lawsuit would go on without the district. He said the board could wait until the Nov. 9 meeting to decide.

“I’m all for deciding tonight,” Board President Eddie Weber said.

Koons made a motion to join Schools for Fair Funding. Mark Rooker seconded the motion, which passed, 7-0.

Other boards wait to decide

Peabody-Burns USD 398 Superintendent Rex Watson discussed Schools for Fair Funding with the board, but he didn’t ask the board to vote.

The organization set a Nov. 13 deadline to join. Watson said the board would likely address the issue again at its Nov. 9 meeting.

Newton USD 373 hosted a meeting about Schools for Fair Funding, with 49 schools represented. Two representatives said they opposed joining the lawsuit, 17 said they would encourage the board to discuss it, and 30 said they would recommend joining, Centre USD 397 Superintendent Jerri Kemble said.

Goessel USD 411 discussed Schools for Fair Funding and the pros and cons of joining but took no action.

“They’re not ready at this point,” Superintendent John Fast said.

He expects more discussion and a possible decision Nov. 9. Likewise, Marion USD 408 discussed joining the organization but made no decision.

Last modified Oct. 14, 2009

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