Published 3/2/2013 in NewsTOPEKA (AP) — Kansas' highest court ordered mediation Friday in an education funding lawsuit and stayed a lower court's ruling directing legislators to increase spending on public schools.
Gov. Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked the state Supreme Court last month to order mediation and to put on hold a ruling by a three-judge panel in Shawnee County District Court requiring the state to boost annual spending on school by at least $440 million.
The high court issued two one-page orders, each signed by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss.
The Kansas Supreme Court's stay will remain in effect until it rules in the lawsuit, but it also said the parties will follow a normal schedule for submitting written legal arguments even as they participate in mediation.
John Robb, a Newton attorney representing the school districts and public school students who sued the state, said that lessens concerns about Brownback and Schmidt seeking mediation to delay a final decision in the case.
The district court panel ruled in January that the state isn't meeting its obligations under the Kansas Constitution to suitably fund schools, requiring legislators to provide additional aid. Following the lower-court order would work against efforts by the conservative Republican governor and the GOP-dominated Legislature to move toward phasing out the state's individual income taxes to stimulate the economy.
Robb said the stay is not surprising, and noted that his clients didn't seek mediation but said they're open to proposals for resolving the lawsuit.
"Anything that might help move this case along and get adequate funding for the kids is good news," Robb told The Associated Press. "Anything that might move this case toward resolution is worth trying."
Brownback's office was reviewing the two orders late Friday before issuing any statements. Schmidt, a Republican, and his chief spokesman did not immediately respond to telephone messages seeking comment.
The lawsuit was filed in October 2010 by the parents and guardians of 32 students and the Wichita, Hutchinson, Dodge City and Kansas City, Kan., school districts, with the state as the defendant.
The Supreme Court gave the parties in the lawsuit until March 8 to pick a mediator, and, if they can't agree, the court will make the appointment.
The high court's order mentions only the parties in the lawsuit as participating in the mediation, but Robb said he hopes legislators will be involved, because they'd have to approve any spending required by an agreement.
"It's a practical issue," Robb said. "To fix this, it's going to take legislative action."
Found 0 comment(s)!