Government & Politics

Shawnee Mission School District cites ‘crippling’ losses in school finance brief

Blocked from joining a school finance lawsuit, the Shawnee Mission School District on Thursday called the state’s funding policy “crippling” in a friend-of-the-court brief.

The Kansas Supreme Court last month affirmed a lower court ruling that Shawnee Mission could not intervene in the school finance lawsuit against the state brought by the Kansas City, Kan., Wichita, Dodge City and Hutchinson districts. The district was told it could file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, Gannon v. Kansas.

Underfunding of the state’s school finance system along with a spending cap is a “significant detriment to districts like SMSD,” the brief said.

“The funding crisis has led to a crippling loss of teachers, loss of foreign language programs, larger class sizes, closure of neighborhood schools, and loss of property values,” it said.

Lawyers for the district argued that the spending cap violates the free speech clauses of the federal and Kansas constitutions. They cited “a fundamental right to be free from governmental obstacles to the people themselves funding public education beyond any minimum set by the state.”

The Gannon lawsuit accuses the state of underfinancing schools and challenges the equity of funding among districts. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in November on whether schools are equitably funded across the state. Whether the funding is adequate will be taken up in 2016.

Edward M. Eveld: 816-234-4442, @EEveld