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Supreme Court upholds Governor's education withholdings

December 9, 2003
By: Aidian Holder
State Capital Bureau

The Missouri Supreme Court delt another blow to cash strapped schools today when it threw out a lawsuit challenging Governor Holden's authority to withhold money from the education budget. Aidian Holder reports.

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After Governor Holden, saying tax collections were falling short, withheld 115 million dollars the legislature budgeted for education, fourteen school districts sued . . . saying the governor can't reduce their budgets in this way.

The court disagreed, unanimously denying the petition and upholding the governor's power.

Schools may be hurting without the money Holden withheld, but Holden spokeswoman Mary Still says she puts the blame on the republican controlled legislature.

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Contents: "The Governor would prefer that the general assembly adequately fund education so that the state doesn't have to defend lawsuits."

This may not be the last lawsuit the state has to defend -- another lawsuit by school districts over education spending levels is in the works.

From the State Capitol, I'm Aidian Holder

The Missouri Supreme Court says Governor Holden can withhold money from school budgets, dismising a lawsuit brought by fourteen Missouri School districts and dealing another blow to cash straped schools. Aidian Holder has more.

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School districts brought the lawsuit after Governor Holden withheld 200 million dollars from the education budget because, he said, tax revenues weren't matching the amount of money the legislature budgeted.

The districts claimed the governor didn't have the power to cut school funding the way he can other agencies . . . but the Court disagreed, unanimously holding that the governor has broad power to withhold funding when revenue doesn't match up with projections.

Jim Dunn is a spokesman for the Liberty school district, a Kansas City area district that was one of the lead plantiffs in the case. He says the withholdings have caused his district to cut 25 teachers and seven support staff.

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Dunn says the issue now is political, not legal . . . but another lawsuit is gathering steam, and it has more than 200 school districts as plantiffs.

From the State Capitol, I'm Aidian Holder.

The Missouri Supreme Court says Governor Holden can withhold money the legislature budgets for education, dealing another blow to cash strapped school districts. But, as Aidian Holder reports, this may not be the last legal challenge to what many educators see as inadequate school funding.

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Fourteen school districts filed suit after Governor Holden, saying tax revenue wasn't matching the republican controlled legislature's projections, withheld 200 million dollars from the education budget.

The school districts claimed that Governor Holden didn't have the same authority to wihthhold money from education as he would over other agencies because of constitutional provision that limit a governor's discretion over how educational funding is spent.

The Court disagreed, ruling unanimously that the governor has broad power to withhold money the state legislature has budgeted if revenue projections don't match up.

Jim Dunn works for the Liberty School District, a Kansas City area district that was one of the lead plantiffs in the case. He says the district was hopeful that it could rehire some of the 32 staff members that had been laid off this year because of budget cuts.

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Contents: Dunn says the budget cuts "have cut to the bone"

Dunn says he's thankful that the lawsuit brought attention to the issue, and he says school funding now has to be dealt with as a political issue, not a legal one.

That's were its headed when the legislature reconvenes after the first of the year. While Republican lawmakers say the state revenue forcast is improving and Holden should release the withholdings, Holden spokeswoman Mary Still says cash starved schools should blame Republican lawmakers for not agreeing to the Governor's tax increase proposals to help fund education.

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Contents: "The Governor would prefer the general assembly adequately fund education so the state wouldn't have to defend lawsuits."

This decision may not be the end of the lawsuits, as more than 200 school districts across the state are preparing to file a massive suit charging that the state isn't living up to its constitutional mandate to provide adequate funding for education. A lawyer working on that case says he expects to file suit by the beginning of January.

From the State Capitol, I'm Aidian Holder