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Archive for Saturday, July 9, 2005

Court OKs plan; schools to open

What a huge relief,’ Weseman declares

July 9, 2005

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— The Kansas Supreme Court on Friday approved the new school finance law, paving the way for schools to open on time next month and capping a political and legal struggle that reached fever pitch in the last few weeks.

"I'm glad to be off this roller-coaster," Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said. "Now that all the legal wrangling and politics is done, we can actually get down to the business of educating kids again."

In June, the state Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to increase school funding because the court said the system was unconstitutionally under-funded and inequitable.

The order prompted an unprecedented standoff during a special legislative session with conservative lawmakers telling the court it had no authority to order the Legislature to make appropriations.

When the Legislature failed to meet the court's July 1 deadline, the court threatened to cut off funding to schools to try to force the lawmakers to comply. Many districts, including Lawrence, started making contingency plans for the delay of the school year.


Carly McClung, 5, who will be a first-grader at Woodlawn School this fall, enjoys working on a computer with volunteer Caroline Biggs. The two were participating in a computer lab activity during a summer school program Friday when the Kansas Supreme Court approved the Legislature's school funding plan.

Carly McClung, 5, who will be a first-grader at Woodlawn School this fall, enjoys working on a computer with volunteer Caroline Biggs. The two were participating in a computer lab activity during a summer school program Friday when the Kansas Supreme Court approved the Legislature's school funding plan.

But late Wednesday, the Legislature approved a $148.4 million spending plan to end a bitter 12-day special session.

Less than 36 hours later - Friday morning - the court heard oral arguments from attorneys involved in the case. Then the justices met in conference and delivered their opinion at 3 p.m. Court officials said the court had never before acted so swiftly.

"The present solution may not be ideal. However, it is approved for interim purposes," Chief Justice Kay McFarland said in the court's unanimous order.

Lawsuit continues

State officials were relieved by the court's decision.

"Kansas kids are the real winners in the Legislature's actions to support our schools," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said.

"That's what today's decision means. It's great that teachers, parents and students can focus on learning, rather than wondering whether schoolhouse doors will be open in the fall," she said.

But the dispute is far from over. The court said it would retain jurisdiction in the case in order to review the Legislature's actions next year.

A study on how much it costs to fund schools so that students achieve a high range of proficiency is under way and will be completed by the start of the 2006 legislative session in January.



Court action

THE ORDER: The Kansas Supreme Court declared that the Legislature met its mandate to improve education funding with a $148.4 million school finance package. WHAT IT MEANS: The court is no longer threatening to withhold money from public schools, something that could have kept students and teachers out of classes this fall. The court's threat was designed to compel lawmakers to act.

The court has said the Legislature needs to fund schools at that level and has indicated an additional $568 million increase may be necessary.

"The real good news in this opinion, in addition to the fact that the schools will open, is the fact the court retained jurisdiction," Alan Rupe, the Wichita attorney who represents the plaintiff school districts, said.

With the court decision, the public school system will receive a $290 million increase for the coming school year - $148.4 million from the legislation just approved, and $142 million that was approved during the earlier regular legislative session.

That is the largest increase in state dollars to schools since 1992 and follows several years of flat spending as the state struggled through the post 9-11 recession. Total state spending on schools will be approximately $3 billion.

The new funding package will be paid for by higher-than-expected tax receipts from the recently rebounding economy, and by dipping into budget reserves. Most budget experts predict that without a new source of revenue, such as a tax increase or expanded gambling, the state will face a serious budget deficit next year.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland and the Kansas Supreme Court decided Friday that the lawmakers had met a court-ordered mandate to increase funding for public education.

Chief Justice Kay McFarland and the Kansas Supreme Court decided Friday that the lawmakers had met a court-ordered mandate to increase funding for public education.

Lawrence benefits

But for now, education officials and politicians were glad to clear the decks for the coming school year.

"What a huge relief that this is over," Weseman said. "We've done some budget work, but when you don't know your bottom line, you just can't get it done."

Bottom line, the Lawrence district will receive about $4.3 million more for the coming school year.

And in another potential revenue increase, the court approved a part of the school finance law that will allow districts to raise their local property taxes. If that is done in Lawrence, that would mean an additional $700,000 to $800,000, Weseman said.

"It has to be carefully considered. You don't just run and do it because it's there," he said.

In June, the court had stopped the proposed local property tax option, but lifted that order Friday because in the new finance legislation, the state will kick in extra dollars to help low-wealth districts.

Atty. Gen. Phill Kline, who has criticized the court's actions in the lawsuit, said he was happy the court allowed this provision.

"I am also pleased the Court decided to return, at least partially, to its traditional position in support of local investment in education," he said. "Nothing in our Constitution limits the rights of parents to invest locally to achieve educational excellence and I will continue to fight for that right."

Alok Ahuja, an attorney representing the state, delivers oral arguments during a hearing on school finance Friday in Topeka.

Alok Ahuja, an attorney representing the state, delivers oral arguments during a hearing on school finance Friday in Topeka.

Rupe has argued that it is unconstitutional for wealthy districts to be able to benefit from local taxes until the state provides an adequate level of funding for all districts.

"You can't have your dessert before you eat your peas," he said.

The court did continue a legal stop to a legislative plan that would have allowed 17 school districts, including Lawrence, that have high housing costs to increase local property taxes for teacher salaries. The court has said that would worsen disparities between poor and wealthy districts.

In agreement

Earlier today, attorneys argued for an hour before the court on the merits of the new legislation. Representatives on opposing sides urged the court to allow schools to open as scheduled.

Alok Ahuja, a private attorney with Lathrop & Gage who was representing the state, said, "There is no justification for this unwarranted and virtually unprecedented step of ordering school closures."

Rupe said the new funding increase was a "good-faith, first-step" effort by the state.

"There is nothing in this legislation that would cause us to stop spending and close schools," he said.

He said the final resolution of the case would be next year if the Legislature increased school funding in compliance with an education cost-study.

Dan Biles, an attorney representing the State Board of Education, urged that the court let schools know as soon as possible what it will decide.

"These districts need to know where they stand, and honestly they need to know today," he said.







The Decision

THE ORDER: The Kansas Supreme Court declared that the Legislature met its mandate to improve education funding with a $148.4 million school finance package. WHAT IT MEANS: The court is no longer threatening to withhold money from public schools, something that could have kept students and teachers out of classes this fall. The court's threat was designed to compel lawmakers to act. JOB NOT DONE: A study of educational cost by legislative auditors is already in the works, and legislators will use the data in deciding on future education spending increases. STILL WATCHING: The court said it would continue to review legislators' actions on school finance. The court has previously said it could order spending increases of up to $568 million next year. COMING STORM: Because the court could require additional spending increases next year, legislators could be forced to consider raising taxes, expanding gambling or consolidating school districts. STILL ARGUING: Atty. Gen. Phill Kline says he will ask the court to reconsider part of its order blocking a provision of Kansas law, enacted this year, granting 17 districts additional authority to raise property taxes. The law is designed to compensate them for their higher-than-average housing costs.

Comments

davey 9 years, 5 months ago

John: Move to Cuba. You'll find out what communism is all about. Maybe you should even enroll in schools in Cuba.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

The court obviously is very perceptive which is why it must retain jurisdiction. What the legislature failed to do in general was to provide long term funding to meet the goals set forth by the consultants they paid for and ignored. Of course if meeting the the courts request and the plan set forth by the consultants without a tax increase would be all the better. Those opposed to new money for public education have stated numerous times it can be done but have yet to put forth an acceptable plan.

IMO excellent curriculum, well paid TEACHING staff and plenty of money to maintain existing resources(buildings) as they should be are far more important than new super highways. Let's bring monies that are slated for brand new highways over to public education and find other means for new highways. I like the idea of a 5 cent education fee on every can/bottle of soda pop.

Why support public Schools?

FYI - I have 3 children.

1 started LHS @ 14 in order to play basketball...in the end he did not make varsity which was a huge disappointment although he maintained a GPA of 3.8-3.9 and is now at KU.

Another began LHS @ 17 in order to facilitate an art portfolio and carried a 3.9 GPA who is attending the Kansas City Art Institute.

Until entering LHS they were homeschooled as is our youngest. We support the public school system for a number of reasons:

  1. They can be an excellent resource for homeschool families in the areas of math,science, music, industrial art and in the case of art LHS has a excellent reputation nationwide as far as higher ed schools are concerned especially among art institutes.

  2. They keep neighborhoods together and make it easier for families who do not have multiple cars and/or cannot afford a bus pass.

  3. Public schools provide good jobs for the community thus putting tax dollars into the local economy...yes it comes back.

  4. Homeschooling is not for everyone and there are a variety of reasons yet each child deserves a chance at a good education.

  5. Certainly many many families cannot afford "private schools".

  6. A variety of scholarships become available by way of public schools.

  7. It's a best bang for the tax buck.

A 5,7 or 10 year funding plan would be most practical.

Keep this in mind. If our legislators are willing to allow KDOT to spend $133,333.33 per acre, and more in some cases, to build a trafficway there must be new money for schools. Looks like under the previous administration the fox was watching the chicken house. Can't allow that to happen again. I would rather have a new little red school house somewhere in USD 497.

John1945 9 years, 5 months ago

Yes indeedy, can't trust democracy can we? Let's let the tyrants at the court cram money down these ratholes until our economy is in a shambles. After all the courts did such a wonderful job with the KCMO school system. Let's let them destroy ours too.

You ultra-authoritarian "do-gooders" make me sick.

Horace 9 years, 5 months ago

This is ignorant. They should close the schools. If the Supreme Court wants more money for schools maybe they should tax monkes since the schools are teaching that people are the same thing as monkes. The teachers are communists and just want more money from taxpayers. Parents need to stand up for their rights and not send their children to school.

John1945 9 years, 5 months ago

"John: Move to Cuba. You'll find out what communism is all about. Maybe you should even enroll in schools in Cuba."

Uhh, no, not to point out the obvious, but I think you need to find a good private school that can help you identify the writer of the letter you want to critique. I wrote nothing about communism.

However, if I did move to Cuba, I suspect that I'd find that the people running the government there have a whole lot in common with Terry Bullock and the Tyrannical 6 in terms of how they run things.

That said, if you go to www.classkc.org I think you'll find that children in Cuba probably get a better education than the children in the Blue Valley school district.

blakus 9 years, 5 months ago

John1945 and Horace, people in America have the choice to send their children to public or private schools. The problem is not everyone can afford to send two or three of their children to a private school which charges $3,000 per term. It cracks me up that people still push the old communist-traitor facade. Maybe you should go back to school, whether it was private or public, and learn that socialism is now more prevelant than ever. This old rhetoric has no place if we are to progressively discuss the current education system. In terms of blaming the Kansas education system and its teachers for wasting our money, you have to seriously think about the issue. The state merely complies with many federal mandates that every other state must follow as well. For example, the state must provide an equal education to those who are disabled. Please think about what you say before you blindly push weak propaganda.

John1945 9 years, 5 months ago

I don't need to go back to school to discover that socialism is more prevelant than ever. All I need to do is look at the Supreme Court's decision depriving us of our right to private property to discover that. How ironical that rich developers will exploit the poor as a result (but then that's what usually happens under oppressive governments).

Indeed, I have been arguing that the foundations of liberalism, as it is currently practiced in this country, are grounded in totalitarian ideology. Thank you for concurring.

Dani Davey 9 years, 5 months ago

I'm sorry, I just have to say that I find it funny that the two people who are so adamantly against public schools and for homeschooling are the two with the most grammatical mistakes in their posts.

Horace, by monkes do you mean monks (like the religious figures) or monkeys (the animal)? I, for one, am not familiar with monkes.

John, I think the word you're looking for is ironic. Ironical is technically not a word.

Liberty 9 years, 5 months ago

Looks like Olathe schools are going to be flooded with 8.7 million dollars more than they used to get. Looks like the court is really spending our money as fast as they can enforce it.

Liberty 9 years, 5 months ago

It is like the public schools have become a religion to some people... Never can spend enough. At this rate the public is going to need ritalin (per lulu) to ease the pain of this giant financial rip off of the public.

Here is the article about the extra 8.7 million for Olathe schools: http://www.olathedailynews.com/News_photo/News4.shtml

davey 9 years, 5 months ago

It disgusts me to hear people talking about education in such a way that they truly do not value it. If we as a citzenry and public policy catalysts do not take the lead in showing students that their education is important and we as a society are willing to pay for a quality education, we will end up with more people like john1945.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

There has not been new money of any significance since 1992. The cost of everything has increased since then with a huge emphasis on the cost of living. It costs a lot of money to catch up.

How many on this chat board turn down raises? If you are self employed how many still price their goods and/or services at 1992 levels?

If any on this board went through public schools think how many people over and above your parents paid for your education.

Some on this board should start paying attention to how much the state spends on the real pork barrel project such as new highways. The western leg of the SLT came in at $9 million over budget for a two lane raceway and no way to get on or off at 15th. The wetlands route is some of the most expensive property in Douglas County with many business establishments along the way to relocate...not good use of tax dollars.

I'll take education over highways any day of the week.

Horace 9 years, 5 months ago

I'M SORRY IF MY SPELLING ISN'T PERFECT. I mean't monkeys like you find at the zoo or in the supreme court. I would value education more if the teachers wern't always begging for money and they didn't spend time teaching liberalism / hate america/ love the UN.

Liston to Hannity some times. He explains what's wrong with the schools.

Dani Davey 9 years, 5 months ago

Misspelled words: 2 New words: 1 Grammatical Errors: 2

Sean Hannity went to private religious schools his whole life. I doubt he knows much first hand about the work public schools do.

Liberty 9 years, 5 months ago

Here is a summary of the Communist Manifesto for those that are public schooled:

  1. Abolition of private property.

  2. Heavy progressive income tax.

  3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.

  4. Confiscation of property of all emigrants and rebels.

  5. Central bank. (Federal Reserve System)

  6. Government control of Communications & Transportation. (TSA, FCC, etc.)

  7. Government ownership of factories and agriculture. (All corporations which includes 501c3 Churches)

  8. Government control of labor. (Dept. of Labor)

  9. Coporate farms, regional planning.

  10. Government control of education. (Public Schools)

This philosophy teaches the citizens to give up their Rights for the sake of the 'common good', and historically ends up in a police state. It uses preventive justice and control is the main objective.

This quote from Noah Webster gives us the correct perspective that this nation was built on:

"The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible."

John1945 9 years, 5 months ago

To Dani:

You're absolutely correct. Grammar was never my strong suit. However, I did take one class that was far more profitable - logic.

In that class I learned about fallacies of relevance. You know, like the ad hominem arguments that you and Davi and Merrill and USSAschools use to dodge the fact that you're not answering any of the critiques of these ratholes you want us to pour our money down.

You see, it doesn't matter what Horace's flaws are, or mine. Your schools are still sewers that no child should be forced to endure.

I again point you to www.classkc.org. There you will find a discussion of trash that, if repeated on the air, would put Howard Stearn out of business. They would probably get an FCC fine if the language was even used in a news discussion. Yet you tell us what wonderful books they are and how you want to force that garbage down the throats of young children. My, my won't they have wonderful grammar.

So let's see, you want to talk about grammar and I want to talk about freedom and tyrannical judges and the decline of our increasingly sick society. If nothing else, I think your priorities suck.

davey 9 years, 5 months ago

John: No child is FORCED to endure public education. Parents have the right to home school their children. I hope your kids are home schooled.
Do you even have kids in the school system? and on what do you base your accusations?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 5 months ago

Why are so many fine with spending tax dollars on vouchers? People say public education cost too much. How will vouchers cost less? Private schools typically cost more.

Lawrence Public Schools are great and they teach people to think and ask questions...is this what people are afraid of? We met the teaching staff at least twice a year.

As far as I can tell the no tax groups are all about privatization and school vouchers not about saving tax dollars. They will be ready to spend OUR tax dollars on corporate run schools with CEO's and obscene pay packages.

There are plenty of examples of corporate america ripping off taxpayers. The flag waving military industrial complex is a shining example of tax dollar rip off.

I am so surprised that almost no one cares how much is spent for highway construction or the military industrial complex. Now let's talk pork barrel. Locally KDOT has spent 133,333.33 per acre for at least one seven and a half acre plot at 31st and Louisiana which equals out to $1,000,000(one million dollars). The western leg of the SLT went $9,000,000 over budget. Target did quite well on the sale of their property...you know the bridge to nowhere location.

The foster parent program was privatized and it went to hell and went broke thus putting children through more frustration. There are some things in this world that do not need to become privatized...public education is one of them.

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