SMSD parents file suit against the state over school funding
Several parents and students in the Shawnee Mission USD 512 are taking their displeasure with school funding into their own hands after filing a law suit in federal court on Friday.
The suit, filed against the state of Kansas and the state Board of Education, challenges the unconstitutional cap place by Kansas law on the amount of money residents within a school district can voluntarily tax to supplement the education funds provided to the Local Option Budget.
"Concerned parents and citizens want to band together as a community to avert the crisis, but the State prohibits them from doing so by forbidding them from collectively pooling their own resources through voluntary local taxation," the parents group said in a statement.
The lawsuit states the current law capping funding that can be raised prohibits students from receiving the education they deserve and are entitled to under the law.
The parents group said the lawsuit is an effort to help the district obtain necessary funding to provide the best possible education for all students.
"This is not an attack against the district or its personnel; it is against the state law that currently forbids them from protecting their children," the group said in a statement.
The state of Kansas provides a base amount of state aid per pupil. However, local districts are limited to raising an additional 31 percent through the local option budget.
The lawsuit claims the cap violates resident's individual and collective fundamental freedoms.
"The LOB Cap strips plaintiffs and local citizens of their fundamental freedom to use their own money to improve the public education of their children. The LOB Cap abridges plaintiffs' fundamental liberty and property interests guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution," the parents group said.
The parents group hopes the lawsuit curtails the district's vote on Monday to close Mission Valley and Antioch middle schools, as well as, Bonjour Elementary school.
Superintendent Gene Johnson made 11 proposals to the board of education in September concerning boundary changes and school closings. On Nov. 8, the board of education removed proposals to close the two middle schools from consideration, pending a study on the district's middle schools.
After the completion of the study, the proposals were added to the Dec. 13 board of education agenda for consideration.
"Plaintiffs hope that the Shawnee Mission School District votes against the school closure plan on December 13th ---or at a minimum waits to act on that proposal until this lawsuit is resolved. If not, plaintiffs will sue the District officials too, and move to stop the school district from enforcing the school closure plan," the group said in a statement.
Officials with the school district said it was not clear how of if the lawsuit filing would affect the board's agenda or decisions at Monday's meeting.
"The school district is not a party in the lawsuit. The parents are acting on their own accord without explicit or implicit approval of the board of education," the district's statement said.
The School Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Monday in the auditorium at Shawnee Mission West High School, 8800 West 85th Street. The meeting will be livestreamed at SMSD.org.