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August 6, 2004

Advocates for disabled students support ruling

From: Lawrence Journal World, KS - Aug 6, 2004

By Scott Rothschild, Journal-World

Friday, August 6, 2004

topeka — Groups representing 65,000 Kansas students with disabilities filed legal briefs Thursday supporting a court order that declared the current school finance system discriminatory and unconstitutional.

"Underfunding of special education by the state for students with disabilities is just one more example of continuing systematic discrimination against people with disabilities," said Kirk Lowry, litigation director for Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services.

The Kansas Supreme Court is to hear arguments Aug. 30 on the state's school finance law. A lower court ordered school funding halted because it said the method of funding shortchanged students, especially minorities and students with disabilities.

The Supreme Court stopped the order while the state appealed. State attorneys argue the school finance system is constitutional and can only be changed by the Legislature.

In a friend of the court brief, Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services and nine other groups that represent people with disabilities said that state law failed to adequately fund special education and that schools were not held accountable for their treatment of students with disabilities.

The organizations said students with disabilities faced discrimination in the public school system every day. Some districts have said they couldn't provide American Sign Language interpreters for deaf children, while others have unnecessarily segregated children with disabilities from other students, the groups said.

"Education is a fundamental right of all our children," said Connie Zienkewicz, executive director of Families Together, an organization that advocates for children in special education. "It's time that Kansas not only adequately funds special education, but it's time we began holding the schools accountable when that education is not provided," she said.

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