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The Hamilton Southeastern Schools' board this morning retained a Chicago law firm with ties to the U.S. Department of Education to help the district with its case against the state for more equitable funding.

The board voted 7-0 to hire Franczek Radelet P.C., a firm that describes itself as being among the nation's leading education law firms. One of the firm's founding partners was named general counsel to the Education Department earlier this year.

Terms of the contract with the law firm were not immediately available.

Superintendent Brian Smith said the firm agreed to take on the case because "they feel confident that we have a good challenge." The district claims the state's method for distributing school funds is inequitable, mainly because per-pupil spending does not keep up with HSE's growing enrollment. Smith said filing a lawsuit and winning is the only way to ensure schools get an equitable distribution of funds.

The district argues that among the 346 school corporations in Indiana, HSE will rank 338th in state dollars allocated to educate each student in 2011. They claim the district's funding levels are going down each year as the cost of educating students continues to rise.

HSE's case against the state comes at a time when a $5.2 million budget shortfall over the next two years threatens cuts of about 60 classroom teachers if something is not done to make up for the deficit, officials said.


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