Archive for Monday, July 11, 2005

Try democracy

July 11, 2005


To the editor:

The Journal-World has repeatedly editorialized against the conservatives' attempts to pass a constitutional amendment limiting the Supreme Court's authority over school funding. In its latest editorial (July 6), the Journal-World stated: "A blanket ban on the court freezing school funding presumably would mean that no matter what the Legislature did or didn't do, the court would be powerless to force a correction. If so Kansans would be without recourse even if legislators decided to reduce, rather than increase, school funding."

Kansans have an obvious recourse: It's called democracy!

School financing has been a hot topic for more than a decade. Kansans have had several elections to decide which legislators to represent them on this issue. They have made their decision! In a representative democracy it is the function of the Legislature to decide school funding issues. If Kansans want school funding increased, they can vote for legislators who will do so.

In our democracy, it is the Legislature, not the courts, that determines funding issues. If the courts determine funding, Kansans will be truly powerless in determining the appropriate funding for their schools. Without a constitutional amendment, unelected judges will determine all funding issues. The framers wisely decided to give these powers to the legislators, who are directly accountable to the people.

Ed White,



Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

This is nonsense. The courts became involved as a result of a lawsuit filed by parents of a school district. Judges render financial judgements of sorts everyday in lawsuit matters.

Some republican legislators are looking for a means to circumvent the court system. Not a smart idea and would set a regrettable precedent.

craigers 12 years, 10 months ago

Letting the courts decide funding amounts would be like asking the marketing department to create a budget for the corporation. Marketing wants to spend, spend, and spend some more, while others actually in finance that balance budgets try to make sure each area gets as much as possible without completly screwing one area in particular. The legislature have to balance the budget and spend what they are allotted and allocate it based on need. They did this and the courts overstepped their bounds by ruling that they needed to give schools more.

Richard Heckler 12 years, 10 months ago

Again the courts based their decision on a study requested by the republican controlled legislature...paid for it and then ignored which is a stupid way to spend tax dollars.

bigdogks 12 years, 10 months ago

There are a number of points raised by Mr. White which merit comment.

First, our form of government is not, strictly speaking, a pure democracy. A comment attributed to Ben Franklin, when asked about our Consitution, is that they had given us a Republic--if we could keep it. There are ample reasons for not thinking of our system, either at the Federal or State level, as the kind of Democracy Mr. White seems to invision. The different term lengths of Senators and Representatives is primarily to insulate lawmakers from short-term electorate whims. Our court system also plays a role in making sure that passions of one sort or another do not gain ascendency. I am by no means denying the fundamentally democratic nature of our system of government; merely pointing out that our founders did not have unbounded trust in the short-term judgment of the people or their elected representatives.

Virtually every decision a court makes has some measure of economic impact. Had the courts decided, for example, in the recent case of Terri Schiavo that her feeding and hydration should be maintained, as was advocated by very many conservatives, it would have logically have implied that someone, private or public, would assume the costs of that care. In deciding that segregation was not acceptable in our public schools, the courts imposed costs on the public to correct that injustice. It is the duty of our courts to enforce fairness and equal treatment. This canot always be accomplished without cost.

Now, if we allow that the legislature might have acted to correct this problem on their own--well, that's correct. They could have--just as generations of lawmakers could have corrected the injustices of segregation in many parts of our country, but failed to act, either from bad faith or bad judgment. The fact that the public favored racially prejudicial laws in no way made them right or just.

In one of the most insightful books ever written on American government, "Democracy in America" by the French aristocrat Alexis D'Tocqueville, he warns explicitly of the dangers of the "tyranny of the majority" which might impose a more devastating form of enslavement on our people than any absolute monarch in old Europe could ever hope to achieve. One bulwark against that danger is a vigilent, indendent and prudent judiciary. We don't always get precisely what we want, but a weakened court system will most certainly threaten the democracy Mr. White values.

One last point. It is true that judges are not elected in Kansas, but it is not true that they are not subject to review, if you will reflect on the last election ballot you cast. One portion of the ballot is devoted to whether judges should or should not be retained. If you feel one or more of our justices has failed in their duties, the redress is already in place--on the balllot.

Joe VanZandt

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