The Shawnee Mission School District will file an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit brought by a group of district parents who challenged the state’s limits on how much money residents can raise in an individual school district.
Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson told the school board this morning that Blue Valley School District also plans to join the brief and the two districts will share the cost of the filing. Hinson emphasized that the districts are not plaintiffs or defendants in the suit. The suit was brought in 2010 by a group of parents who had been involved in the effort to prevent the closing of the Mission Valley Middle School and wanted to see the district be able to raise more money in the face of declining state aid.
U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum had dismissed the parents’ suit in 2011, but the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision. Last December, the federal district court denied a motion to dismiss by the plaintiffs. The suit is known as Petrella v. Brownback. The suit contends the parents’ rights to equal protection have been violated.
The supporting brief, Hinson said, suggests the local option budget cap on how much local money the district can raise means that First Amendment rights have been restricted. “Our brief asks whether at the federal level (the Kansas Constitution is unconstitutional) in its restriction that (school district patrons) can’t go to the polls to determine their own destiny.”
Hinson has consistently said he believes districts in Kansas should have the power to raise funds in addition to the amount provided by state support if voters in the district approve. He told the board that 15 percent of all the assessed valuation in the state comes from Blue Valley and Shawnee Mission. However, he said, both districts are in the bottom 15 percent of the amount of funding received through the state’s base aid funding formula.
Because the legislature made changes to the local option budget limits late Sunday, the draft brief presented to the board at a special meeting this morning will need to be corrected to reflect those before it is filed.