SMSD board seeks to intervene in appeal of Gannon ruling; superintendent warns of additional possible cuts

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson told the school board Monday that additional cuts to funding this year were possible.
Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson told the school board Monday that additional cuts to funding this year were possible.

With a unanimous vote Monday, the Shawnee Mission School Board directed its attorneys to file a motion requesting the district be permitted to intervene in a petition asking the Kansas Supreme Court to reopen the equity portion of the Gannon school funding lawsuit.

On Jan. 27, Schools for Fair Funding, a group of 48 mostly smaller and rural Kansas school districts, asked the Supreme Court to revisit the decision it rendered last year, charging that the Kansas legislature is not complying with the court’s ruling to restore approximately $129 million in funding to Kansas schools.

Shawnee Mission superintendent Jim Hinson told the board that one of the possible remedies being sought by Schools for Fair Funding “potentially could have harm to the Shawnee Mission School District in relation to our local option budget.”

Members of the board spoke in favor of filing the motion, with several pointing to overwhelming support for the district’s recent funding measures in January’s mail-in election as evidence that district patrons wanted to see their local school funding protected.

“I think we as the representatives of the community are certainly aware of how strongly our community wants these schools to have what we need,” said Donna Bysfield, the board’s SM East area representative.

Hinson noted that there was no guarantee that the Supreme Court would grant the district’s request.

“The court does not have to allow that to happen, but if they did, it would allow us to have a voice at the table and certainly be a part of that discussion,” he said.

As for this year’s district funding, Hinson warned that additional cuts could be around the corner. Earlier this month, Gov. Sam Brownback ordered a 1.5 percent cut to K-12 schools for the current year.

“We certainly could see additional allotment reductions this fiscal year,” said Hinson. “We all hope that the last of the fiscal reductions this school year have occurred, but the probability of additional reductions is real.”

Last week, the state formally appealed a three-judge panel’s December ruling that Kansas school funding is “inadequate from any rational perspective” in the “adequacy” portion of the Gannon case.