- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas Supreme Court will not allow the Shawnee Mission School District to intervene in a lawsuit filed against the state by four other school districts over school funding.

The court on Monday upheld a lower court’s ruling that Shawnee Mission, a wealthier district in Johnson County, waited too long to intervene in a lawsuit brought by the Wichita, Hutchinson, Kansas City and Dodge City districts in 2010. Those districts allege that current levels of school funding violate the state Constitution and deprive students of a suitable education.

Shawnee Mission argued that the four districts and the state could not adequately represent its interests, The Wichita Eagle reported (https://bit.ly/1OrU7qd ). The district wants to eliminate limits on how much local property tax can be spent to fund local schools, but the four that are part of the lawsuit don’t want that to happen because they would not be able to provide similar educations to those offered by wealthier districts.

“Generally, the plaintiffs (including Wichita) request that more state financial aid be distributed to their districts and other similarly situated districts,” the opinion, written by Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, said. “But (Shawnee Mission) contends the distribution of these funds actually exacerbates inequities between districts like itself and those like the plaintiffs.”

The justices acknowledged Shawnee Mission’s interests are not well represented by either the state or the four districts but said the district should have known its interests were at risk no later than 2014, meaning “its motion to intervene 1 year later was untimely.” The court said Shawnee Mission could file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.

Alan Rupe, a lawyer representing the four districts, agreed that Shawnee Mission has different interests on property tax spending.

“It is our opinion that SMSD wants to turn public education in Kansas into an ‘every district for itself’ system - and we are certainly opposed to any efforts to significantly disrupt the equity of the school funding system,” Rupe said in a statement.

The Shawnee Mission district did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, https://www.kansas.com


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