Chase not sure if Columbia schools will participate in funding decision appeal

Thursday, November 1, 2007 | 9:13 p.m. CDT; updated 2:46 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The Committee for Educational Equality plans to appeal a court ruling upholding the state’s funding formula for schools. The Columbia Public School District was part of the original suit and helped fund the litigation, but Superintendent Phyllis Chase said the school board has not yet decided if the district will be part of the appeal.

In September, Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan determined the state’s funding formula that determines how much money schools receive is constitutional.

The committee has been the primary plaintiff in the lawsuit, representing around 250 school districts.

Chase said it’s not clear when the school board will take up the issue.

“That’s a decision that the school board will have to make together,” she said

The appeal is not on the board’s November agenda, which will likely be dominated by a discussion about the location of Columbia’s newest high school.

“It depends on the time constraint we have in deciding if we will be a part of the appeal,” said school board President Karla DeSpain. “We need to have time to discuss this together as a group and hear one another’s opinions.”

The cost of Columbia’s participation in the appeal is unknown, however DeSpain stressed that it would not be in the same realm as the $82,000 paid for part of the initial litigation.

“We’d have to know the cost of continuing in this to determine whether we will or not,” DeSpain said.

Although educational equality committee is the primary plaintiff in the lawsuit, the Coalition to Fund Excellent Schools is also involved, said Mary Jo Burton, who works with the coalition,, which is affiliated with a number of major school districts in the St. Louis area.

“We determined that it was in our best interest to appeal if CEE did,” Burton said. “If we don’t tag onto the lawsuit, we don’t have a seat at the table, and we don’t have witnesses representing our case.”

David Glasser, chief financial officer for the St. Louis coalition, said giving a voice to those affected by lack of funds is a key reason why the coalition will participate in the appeal.

“Our members are committed to continue with the appeal,” Glassersaid. “It’s important for our students and our taxpayers to have a voice and be involved. By participating in this appeal, we’re allowing for that.”

However, Burton said that the coalition is straddling the legal fence because they feel as though the state distributes funding more fairly than it ever has, yet the amount of funding given is still inadequate.

“It’s not a perfect way of funding education,” Burton said. “We think it’s fair, but it’s not perfect.”

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