Newspaper files lawsuit, says coalition of schools is public entity

KANSAS -- A newspaper filed a lawsuit late last month to obtain financial information from a coalition of school districts that successfully sued the state last year to increase government funding for Kansas public schools.

The Topeka Capital-Journal filed a lawsuit July 28 against Schools for Fair Funding Inc., an organization that helped a group of 18 Kansas school districts sue the state for increased educational funding, according to an Associated Press article.

Pete Goering, executive editor of the newspaper, said The Capital-Journal had asked for the financial records of Schools for Fair Funding dating back to 1999, but the organization refused, and instead only offered to provide its records since January.

Goering said that because Schools for Fair Funding receives money from public school districts, its records should be open for examination.

"They’re receiving public money, they’re receiving taxpayer money," Goering said. "Schools are giving them money, and that’s the basis of our suit, is that this is public money, and the public deserves to know how much has been spent and what its going for."

But Alan Rupe, attorney for Schools for Fair Funding, said the organization is an independent, non-profit organization so the records should be private.

"They are probably taking that position because it sells papers," Rupe said. "The truth is we are willing to cooperate with them and have in fact offered to disclose some information."

Rupe said he doubts that any sort of pre-trial settlement will be reached because the attorney for The Capital-Journal, Mike Merriam, sent him an e-mail stating that the newspaper wanted to use the case to set a court precedent for accessing information from similar institutions in the future.

Merriam could not be reached for comment.

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