A Wichita school district's battle over state funding has surpassed $2 million in legal bills as it heads into another year

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita school district’s battle over state funding has surpassed $2 million in legal bills as it heads into another year.

School board members unanimously voted Monday for a resolution continuing Wichita Public Schools’ membership in Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition of districts suing the state, the Wichita Eagle reported . The lawsuit alleges current school funding levels violate the state constitution and deprive students of a proper education.

The resolution calls for Wichita to spend up to $6 per student annually on the lawsuit, putting the district’s total spending so far on the case at more than $2 million.

School leaders said the cost is unfortunate but necessary in the fight for more funding.

“I would never have guessed … when we started this that we’d still be going nine years later,” said John Robb, lead attorney for the coalition.

The coalition had more than 70 districts when filing the lawsuit in 2010. There are now 40, including Wichita, the state’s largest district.

“It’s not that they have some desire to litigate forever. I don’t think anybody wants that,” Robb said. “But we just don’t seem to be able to get to a conclusion that actually solves the problem.”

The state Supreme Court heard oral arguments last month over a new school funding law that would increase funding statewide by about $500 million over five years. Lawmakers created the legislation after the court ruled last fall that the funding level for schools was unconstitutional.

The coalition said that the new state law still falls short of up to $1.5 billion.

“When we are saying there needs to be more money, it is not that this school district or any of the schools are all that money-hungry,” said Wichita board member Ernestine Krehbiel. “We’re just trying to get back to where it once was.”

Wichita has received at least $47.3 million in state funding over the past two years, according to district spokeswoman Susan Arensman. She said the district expects an additional $43 million over the next four years, assuming there are no changes to the funding formula or enrollment.

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Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com