Attorneys argue funding formula punishes Shawnee Mission district in motion to intervene in Gannon case

Attorney Tristan Duncan was also involved in a lawsuit that came out of the organized efforts to prevent Mission Valley from closing.
Attorney Tristan Duncan was also involved in a lawsuit that came out of the organized efforts to prevent Mission Valley from closing.

A motion filed by school district attorneys this week argues that Shawnee Mission and other “similarly situated school districts” are not well represented by the coalition of mostly smaller and rural districts seeking to have the equity portion of the Gannon school funding lawsuit reopened.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon attorneys Tristan Duncan and Zach Chaffee-McClure argue that the state’s current formula effectively punishes property-value rich districts like Shawnee Mission and results in the district having significantly less to spend on education than other districts even when local option budget spending is taken into account. Duncan was one of the attorneys who filed suit against the state on behalf of the group of parents who organized to save Mission Valley Middle School.

The district’s petition to intervene filed with a three-judge panel in Shawnee County contends that Shawnee Mission, the third largest school district in the state, is not compensated on a per student basis in a fashion equitable with other districts.

“The current funding scheme routinely underfunds U.S.D. 512 relative to other school districts,” reads the motion. “Historically, U.S.D. 512 receives dramatically less General State Aid per pupil than Plaintiffs receive.”

The petition lays out the per pupil funding in Shawnee Mission compared to other districts. It also contends that the plaintiff districts “have been antagonistic to LOB (Local Option Budget) spending” upon which Shawnee Mission relies to make up for the underfunding by the state. Shawnee Mission is more dependent on local effort, including the LOB, the petition notes, suggesting the plaintiffs would “hold hostage other districts’ LOB funds…”

The petition asks that the current funding formula, and the underfunding of schools generally, be declared in violation of the state constitution.

The full petition is copied below. The Shawnee Mission School Board voted to direct its attorneys to file the motion at its meeting in February.

https://dfv6pkw99pxmo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/MTN-OF-SMSD-TO-INTERVENE-with-Ex.-A.pdf