Parents Challenge Cap on Public School Aid

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (CN) – Parents say Kansas prohibits them from taxing themselves to provide their children with better education, stripping “local citizens of their fundamental freedom to use their own money to improve the public education of their children.”

      Kansas’ Local Option Budget Cap limits the amount “by which citizens within a local school district may voluntarily supplement the education funds provided by the state,” says the complaint.
     “The LOB Cap serves no legitimate purpose,” the complaint states. “It reduces educational quality, increases class size, causes severe budget cuts, and precludes school districts from devoting additional resources to aid disadvantaged and underprivileged children.
     “Ironically, while Kansans are free to spend unlimited amounts of money on junk food, video games, and other threats to the best interests of their children, they are prohibited from democratically taxing themselves to improve the education of public school children.
     “In a nation founded on liberty, self-government, and local initiative, and at a time when America’s educational system is widely recognized to be in financial crisis and requires substantial improvement, it is startling that any state would prohibit its communities from improving their schools through collective civic action.”
     The plaintiffs, 10 sets of parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, claim the Kansas law violates their First and Fourteenth Amendments. They say the LOB Cap prohibits the proper funding of their school district and hurts their children’s education.
     “The state intentionally underfunds the Shawnee Mission School District,” the complaint states. “The state allocates to the district some of the lowest per pupil expenditures of any school district in the state. The Shawnee Mission School District is in the bottom 11 percent (11%) of all school districts in terms of total per pupil funding.
     “Thus, the district is one of the poorest school districts in funding for classroom instruction. This gross disparity in state money deprives Shawnee Mission School District schoolchildren of the educational benefits that other school districts and children receive who are funded at much higher levels by the state.
     “Through the LOB Cap, the Kansas Legislature essentially tells plaintiffs that they may not raise their own taxes to improve their own school system even though that is what the voters in the Shawnee Mission School District want to do. Every request submitted to local voters requesting local tax increases for local public education historically has passed without objection. The LOB Cap effectively prohibits plaintiffs from self-help to achieve comparable funding levels to other better funded school districts for which the state shows preferential treatment.
     As a result of the LOB Cap, the plaintiffs claim Shawnee Mission will be forced to close schools and revise its boundaries to consolidate schools. They wants the budget cap enjoined as unconstitutional.
     They are represented by Tristan Duncan with Shook Hardy & Bacon of Kansas City, Mo.
     Named as defendants are Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, Attorney General Steve Six, Treasurer Dennis McKinney and 13 state education officials.

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