The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas on June 23, 2006 · Page 3
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The Hays Daily News from Hays, Kansas · Page 3

Hays, Kansas
Issue Date:
Friday, June 23, 2006
Page 3
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FRIDAY, JUNE 23,2006 REGION AND STATE THE HAYS DAILY NEWS A3 Attorneys square off over school plan's suitability By CHRIS GREEN HARRIS NEWS SERVICE TOPEKA — The state's Supreme Court should end a 1999 lawsuit because a phased- in, $541 million hike passed this year does enough to suitably fund public schools, attorneys for the state argued Thursday Lawyers for districts that successfully sued the state over inadequate school funding, including Dodge City and Salina, countered that lawmakers still needed to do more. In a three-hour hearing, the state's representatives also told the court that justices couldn't realistically expect the Legislature to come up with the nearly $1 billion more that districts say the plan lacks. At one point, some justices questioned attorneys over whether there was a point where schools would be adequately funded or if they could absorb an even larger influx of dollars. "Where does this end?" Justice Eric Rosen asked Wichita attorney Alan Rupe, the plaintiffs' lead attorney. Rupe said districts still have plenty of needs to be met and the school districts he represents just want to see lawmakers closely follow the recommendations of their own legislative cost study. He said the Legislature departed too far from that study, designed to help lawmakers fund schools based on the actual costs of educating students, to make its school finance package acceptable. "They may need a little more GPS kind of guidance from you," Rupe told justices. But Alok Ahuja, a Kansas City attorney representing the state, said that "slavish adherence" to that study would be financially disastrous for the state. The Legislative Division of Post Audit study called for at least $399 million more in funding for next year to help students meet the state's testing performance standards. . But since those requirements steadily increase over time, attorneys for the state warned that following the report would set the stage for a cascade of future school-funding increases. "This hearing will be repeated every year with ever increasing demands until (education) becomes the state's only funded government activity," Ahuja said. • • • For their part, justices fired off tough questions to both sides during the hearing. Justice Robert Davis questioned state attorneys about how the court could determine whether legislators adequately funded schools without utilizing the education cost study. Attorneys for the state are arguing that lawmakers used the study as a guide but that the report shouldn't dictate what actions the court should take in the case. Davis wondered whether the study should be sent back to a lower court for review. At another point, Justice Donald Allegrucci interrupted attorney Steve McCallister's attempt to reiterate his view that the Legislature should be the "one place" where school-spending decisions should be made, since all Kansans are represented there. "The voice of the people speaks through the constitution and once the constitution's written and adopted, we no longer look at the politics and people to determine what's constitutional," Allegrucci said. "Do you agree with that?" But Justice Carol Baier also questioned Rupe over whether there was "any room for compromise" in his position. Rupe replied that his clients were looking for "substantial compliance" with the court's previous order, something lawmakers hadn't achieved yet. Last year, lawmakers passed a $290 million increase in school funding, but the court reserved the right to order an additional $560 million increase this year. • • • Rep. Mike O'Neal, R-Hutchinson, a critic of the court who attended Thursday's hearing, said the line of questioning suggested that justices have grown weary of the school-funding case. "I think they really are looking for an exit strategy," O'Neal said. Yet incoming Dodge City Superintendent Alan Cunningham, who also was on hand, said the court appeared to have bigger goals than just ending the case. "I really think they want to resolve the issue: getting it over with in a way that satisfies the constitutional requirement to educate the kids in Kansas," Cunningham said. Cunningham said he wouldn't be surprised if the court accepted the Legislature's plan but didn't dismiss the school- funding suit. The court did not set a date for when it would announce its decision on the case. For Salina Superintendent Rob Winter, also present for the arguments, that means proceeding under the assumption that his district will receive the additional $2.3 million it has been promised for next year. "We'll work our budgets and do what we need to do to make sure we're ready for school in the fall," Winter said. "We're kind of in a wait-and-see mode about what their decision will be once they've taken care of deliberations." HWS DISTRICT WORKS ON BIDfitT WHILE WAITING FOB MLINB By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN HAYS DAILY NEWS Legislators are calling It a good- faith effort. Attorneys representing public schools in a 1999 lawsuit against the state are saying it isn't enough. So goes the ongoing controversy swirling around school finance in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday heard arguments from both sides regarding a three-year package for school finance worth $541 million. A legislative post audit study earlier this year said that the state needed to increase its aid for public schools by at least $400 million for the 2006-07 year. During its regular session this spring, the legislature instead proposed the three-year package, one which Gov. Kathleen Sebelius supports. "The state continues to make the argument that we get closer and closer, just give us a chance and we'll get there," said Fred Kaufman, superintendent of Hays USD 489. "Our argument is they should have done it 10 years ago," added Kaufman, president of Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition that supports the lawsuit that says the formula for funding public education was inade- quate and inequitable. The court is to make its decision within the next few weeks. Last year, it ordered a special session for legislators to try to fix the formula. And legislators approved a $148.4 million bill to increase school funding for 2005-06. Despite another wait, Kaufman said work on next year's budget is ongoing. "Most of our work is being done on what money exists," he said. "That's pretty much where we are. If it changes, we can adjust quickly." One bright spot, Kaufman said, is that the Hays district is not looking at having to make staff cuts for next year. "Mostly what we're doing Kaufman - * s filling the vacancies," he said, "but we're not cutting." In Kaufman's opinion, it won't take the Supreme Court long this time around to make a decision. "I think we'll see a court decision relatively soon," Kaufman said. "Last year, it took nearly a month (after hearing arguments). I don't think it will be that long this time." Until then: "We're back to waiting," he said, "to see what their decision is." Reporter Diane Gasper-O'Brien can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 126, or by e-mail at STEVEN HAUSLER / Hays Daily News Duane Towns, Palco, watches the progress Thursday as Annie Marcotte, a Clarksville, Md., artist, paints a Kansas scene on a downtown Palco building. MURAL: Artist improvises off small-town theme CONTINUED FROM PAGE A1 Marcotte started by painting large blocks of solid color, then adding details. The trees began as solid green masses, the cows as black blobs. Individual leaves, branches and bark came after, and the faces of the cattle came later. The extent of Morel's art experience is a high school art class, but she's been able to assist with some of the intricate detail work, she said. "Nothing like she's done, but it was more than just rolling on paint," Morel .said. "I've learned a lot from her, and I've learned a lot from doing this." The crew began work at about 6:30 a.m. every day this week. One of their workdays lasted a grueling 12 hours, Morel said. "I painted that whole day," she said. Marcotte said the mural has evolved some from the original concept. She said Lowry gave her the theme of small-town life in Kansas, and she sketched some ' ideas. After they had decided on one look for the mural, she still leaves the door open for tweaking. "A lot of times I have a general idea of what I'm doing, and then when I get up there I just sort of improvise," she said. "I think that's what makes it unique." Kern said the painting has a good grasp of western Kansas life; it'll be even better, he said, when all of the details are finished. "We've got the oil and the wheat and the cattle," he said. "Wait 'til she gets them pheasants in there." Reporter Will Manly can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 138, or by e-mail at Briefs Sherman, Wallace counties approved for CRP grazing Five additional counties have been approved by federal authorities for grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres. The northwest Kansas counties include Sherman and Wallace. Earlier, several counties had been approved for the emergency measure, the result of continuing drought. Earlier, Cheyenne, Decatur, Ellis, Gove, Graham, Ness, Osborne, Rawlins, Rush, Russell, Thomas, and Trego counties were approved for grazing. Today's announcement that farmers in Sherman and Wallace counties will be allowed to let cattle graze the grass acres could prove beneficial to farmers in the area. In exchange for grazing the grass, farmers will have to forfeit a fourth of their annual rental payments. Farmers also must implement a program to ensure that enough grass remains. Grazing is allowed until Sept. 11, and farmers must make arrangements with their local Farm Service Agency to utilize the grass. Hoxie man injured when hit by another vehicle on 1-70 GRAINFIELD — A Hoxie man suffered possible injuries Thursday after a two-vehicle accident a mile west of Grainfleld. Raymond E. Dancer of Hoxie and David Charles Lunsford of Del City, Okla., were eastbound on Interstate 70 at about 1:45 p.m. in the driving lane. Lunsford rear-ended Dancer's vehicle and sent it through a Kansas Department of Transportation fence, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported. Lunsford's vehicle came to a stop in the south ditch. Dancer's vehicle came back onto the roadway and struck the passenger side of the other vehicle. • Dancer, 85, was taken to Gove County Medical Center. Lunsford was uninjured. Midwest Energy offers $2,6M for plant By STACIE R. SANDALL HAYS DAILY NEWS OAKLEY — Citizens of Oakley gathered at Northwest Kansas Educational Service Center Thursday night to learn about what Midwest Energy Inc. had to offer. Representatives spoke to about 100 people at a town meeting presenting to the public their proposal to buy the the community's power distribution system and the plant. Midwest Energy has offered the city almost $2.6 million. Representatives of the city spoke about the problems with the current system and the financial aspect of rebuilding it. "A lot of questions were answered and everybody was courteous," said Mayor Frank Munk. "They definitely agree now that something has to be done, and this was a proposal to a solution." Oakley asked the company to buy the power plant because rebuilding the 50-year-old system would be a significant cost for the city Rebuilding would cost around $2 million, which would mean raising rates. "I think we got the city's side put across. We need to get started doing something," Munk said. Munk said the two-hour meeting was productive and positive. Bob Helm, spokesman for Midwest Energy, said about eight or nine company representatives were in attendance. "We gave them our presentation and everyone answered questions. We'll see what the city council decides," Helm said. "These things take time. Especially when you're working with cities and governments." Another proposal is on its way from Western Cooperative in WaKeeney, which will come no later than Sept. 4. "In my opinion, the council will decide which proposal to take to a vote," Munk said. He added that another town meeting looks iikely to "nail down specifics/' Reporter Stacle R. Sandall can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 136, or by e-mail at Creatures, fossil hunters live again in IMAX film By MIKE CORN HAYS DAILY NEWS Unlike the movie "Jurassic Park," sea-going monsters won't be coming alive again on the plains of northwest Kansas. But the people who discovered them will be in a new IMAX 3D movie that is being put together by National'Geographic. The movie will detail some of the people that made northwest Kansas famous for collecting reptiles and fish from 80 million years ago. It will also feature some of the people who made the discoveries, notably the Sternberg family that is the namesake of the world-famous Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays. Mike Everhart, an adjunct curator of vertebrate paleontology and a Derby paleontologist, is serving as an adviser for the movie. He's also writing the coffee- table book that will accompany the release of the movie. This isn't Everhart's first book; just last year, his book "Oceans of Kansas, A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea," was released. The National Geographic movie, however, has nothing to do with his book. Instead, it's a result of a series of meetings Everhart has had with people connected to National Geographic and Everhart's love for mosasaurs.— the reptile for which northwest Kansas is famous. Western Kansas, about 80 million years ago, was covered by an ocean. Mosasaurs and pleisosaurs and other ferocious fishes swam the seas at the time. Today, the fossilized remains have and still can be found. And perhaps no one is anymore famous than Charles H. Sternberg and his three sons, Charles, Lev! and George, all of whom have Kansas-discovered fossils in museums around the world. Everhart said the movie, "Sea Monsters" takes place in Kansas during the Cretaceous period 80 million years ago. "The main story line is animated," he said. But it's not the complete story line. In between, actors who are portraying members of the Sternberg family and others are re-enacting famous fossil discoveries, such as the fish-within-a-fish discovery. "They've got my wife and I in there on a mosasaur dig south of Quinter 10 years ago," he said. That was the discovery of a mosasaur that is now housed at the Pick Fossil Museum in Oakley, a fossil that was recovered by Everhart and donated to the museum by the people on whose land it was recovered. Filming started in early June wrapped up last week. Now, they will have to dub in the voices of the actors — drowned out by the rumblings of the IMAX camera — and get the animation completed. "They started out at Castle Rock," Everhart said, where an actor portrayed Charles H. Sternberg. WHERE TO SEE IT Even though the film centers on fossil discoveries from northwest Kansas, it's going to be difficult to see the film in the area. Because It Is an IMAX film, It will only Add jn the 3D component and it. will only be available for viewing in , Qlathe; at W<?. .Studiq f30, !MAX,$?, theaters also are available in Denver and Colorado Springs. The "Sea Monsters" film In Kansas Is not expected to be complete until October 2007. They also filmed at what has been called Wildcat Canyon, located to the east of Castle Rock. There, they were able to get overhead shots, looking down into the chalk ravines that have been eroded away by wind and water. The movie will start out with a scene at Lake Wilson, which is not technically accurate but is designed to serve as representative of the area where the fossils were collected. "I was technical adviser and I hated that location," Everhart said. But some concessions were necessary to let the filming take place. "I tried to keep them as accurate as possible," he said. That was true with models of what was collected, which he said were "nicer and larger" than what is actually the case. They finished filming at the University of Kansas and at a quarry in Kansas City. The KU filming was designed to depict the preparation of fossils while the quarry was designed to reflect mosasaur discoveries in Israel, depicting that Cretaceous fossils have been discovered worldwide. The film will also include information about a mosasaur that was found by the elder Sternberg with the remains of a pleisiosaur in its stomach. That link was not officially made until just a few years ago. "I was pleased to get some credit for Charlie," Everhart said. He's also getting ready to start working on the book that will accompany the release of the movie. "It's going to be a substantial book," he said. "It's gojng to be hardbound." Not all of the contract details have been worked out yet, he said. The movie, he said, will be only 40 minutes long. It will start and end with animated scenes. The animation, Everhart said, is expensive. Throughout the filming, as many as 60 people were on hand. "They were all over the place at Monument Rocks," he said, noting that two catering trucks from Los Angeles also were on the scene. "It takes a lot of people to make this thing run." And, he said, the film crew and actors cam away with a "good appreciation for Kansas. They were at Monument Rocks and Castle Rock for some wonderful sunsets." Managing editor Mike Com can be reached at (785) 628-1081, ext. 129, or by e-mail at mcorn <td*llyn*w».net. \:

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