Archive for Thursday, June 22, 2006

School funding suit begins in court today

June 22, 2006


— The issue that has shaped Kansas politics for the past two years reaches a watershed moment today.

Attorneys in the long-running school finance lawsuit will face off before the Kansas Supreme Court in oral arguments over whether the Legislature's latest attempt to fix the school funding system is constitutional.

The state will argue that the recently approved, three-year, $466 million increase for schools is enough to answer the concerns of previous court rulings; plaintiff's attorneys, representing low-wealth districts, will say the new plan doesn't come close.

At stake is a $3.5 billion funding method that supports Kansas' 450,000-student public school system. Rejection of the new plan also could lead to a second special legislative session in as many years, which also would occur right in the middle of the election season.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has said the new funding plan represents a "good-faith effort" and a "step in the right direction."

Alan Rupe, the attorney representing the plaintiff school districts, said the Kansas Constitution doesn't recognize good-faith efforts. His client school districts first filed the lawsuit in 1999 and are still waiting for resolution, he said.

Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system unconstitutional because it shortchanged all students, especially those from low-income areas.

It ordered increases in school funding last year, and after a special legislative session accepted a $290 million increase as a down payment on whatever a legislative cost study said was needed to provide an adequate education.

That cost study came in this year, saying $400 million more was needed for the 2006-07 school year. The Legislature's three-year plan totaling $466 million would allocate less than half of the cost-study amount next year.

But Alok Ahuja, a private attorney representing the state, said the cost study should be considered "a policy tool, not an absolute indicator of the constitutional threshold for state K-12 funding."

Rupe said his problem with the new plan is that it's not enough and continues to provide additional funding to small rural districts at the expense of urban districts with high numbers of poor children.

"The bill's funding is not allocated based on the actual and necessary costs of providing a suitable education," Rupe said in his legal brief.

"In fact, the funding is distributed in such an inequitable manner that it exacerbates the unconstitutional disparities existing in the system prior to the adoption of SB 549 (the new law)," he added.


erichaar 12 years ago

After all of this, remember that the real tragedy is that the legislature, NOT THE JUDICIARY, is tasked by the Constitution to expend tax dollars.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

I believe it is the Judiciary that will determine an illegality passed by the Legislature.

Though no concrete number, or percentage, is used to determine how to adaquately fund our public schools...

...if evidence strongly and overwhelmingly purports and proves there is an illegality taking place, it is the Judiciary's role to intervene and declare something unconstitutional.

erichaar-- We're not talking about a few hundred dollars, or even a million dollar shortfall. Hundreds of million and, in some reports, billions of dollars, short. This is no minor issue.

I posted yesterday state contributions from Illinois to public schools, which only funds 15-25% of the school districts' budgets. The remainder of school district funding comes from local tax districts within citizens' communties. Illinois has pledged over $10 billion dollars to its school districts. Chicago's Mayor Daley has proposed $1 billion just for his school district.

Kansas does not fund its schools as Illinois and other states do. They prefer for legislators at Topeka to devise the "perfect" formula and allocate funds to the school districts.

Well, look around other states and cities...this $400 million dollar (over 3-years) is just not enough.

Thank goodness for checks-and-balances to hopefull again rule the Kansas Legislature unconstitutional on upholding it's consitutionally-mandated role to adaquately fund its public schools!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 12 years ago

The legislature is also tasked to adequately fund schools for all Kansas kids, and it's because of its failure to do so that the Supreme Court, doing its constitutionally tasked duty, has intervened.

erichaar 12 years ago

I'm just glad I don't live in Illinois.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

Why's that?

Although, I'm kinda glad too, our roads are rather congested as is.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago


Your logic didn't make sense. You were disappointed that Doug Mays didn't do his constitutional duty, and yet, are disappointed the Supreme Court did exercise their constitutional duty.

usaschools 12 years ago

Jayhawk226, Clearly, Agnostix is saying that it is disappointing that it was NECESSARY for the Supreme Court to become involved in the first place due to the negligence of the State Legislature. Mays is just the current obstructionist of school funding in a long run of Republicans such as Tanner, Dave Kerr, and others.
Polls show that Kansans overwhelmingly support adequate funding for our schools, but the legislature failed to represent their constituents (in addition to failing in their constitutional duty). The Governor was elected on a pro-education vote after Bill Graves failed to demonstrate leadership on this issue. Kansans want to fund their schools. They know it will eventually take a tax increase (or restoration of taxes after an era of over-zealous tax cuts), and they are willing. When asked if they would accept a tax increase to fund schools, Kansans say, "YES" by a wide margin. Voters sent their Congressional leaders a clear message to fund schools, but these leaders are more beholden to out-of-state anti-tax group and their political aspirations than to the voters they represent. It truly is a shame that the courts had to get involved.

As for the baloney about the courts not being able to appropriate funds, technically, they are not. They are ordering the legislature to do their job. They are not setting dollar amounts. They are telling the legislature to USE THE ACTUAL COST OF FUNDING EDUCATION AS THE BASIS FOR THE ALLOCATION OF FUNDS rather than allocate funds by guesswork or on political grounds. The fact that the schools are underfunded is the fault of the legislature, not the courts.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

Here's an example of the high school I graduated from: (as a note: lowest property taxes in the State of Illinois)

LEYDEN COMM H S DIST 212 District Enrollment (2005): 3,497 2005 District Financial Information-RevenuePercentages

Local Property Taxes 73.4% $35,155,602 Commercial/Ind. Tax 18.0% $8,609,777 General State Aid 2.2% $1,031,515 Other State Funding 4.9% $2,350,370 Federal Funding 1.6% $753,251

As a side note: Avg. years of teaching experience: 11 yrs. Avg. teacher salary: $78,148 Avg. % of teachers w/ Master's degrees: 63%


Jayhawk226 12 years ago


It is apparent, people read what they want to read, hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe.

Unfortunately, not many people have logic/reasoning skills.

And with less than 32% of the Kansas Legislature actually having college degrees/education, apparently the logic/reasoning is absent from legislative sessions as well.

Sure you don't wanna head to Illinois erichaar? We have plenty of affordable housing on the Southside of Chicago, or downstate near St. Lousy!

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

usaschools--My comment was in reference to those who disagree with the court's previous ruling. Not toward your statements.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

Is it too early to have one now, it's 10:16am. We can call it an early lunch.

erichaar 12 years ago

"GET SCHOOL FUNDING OUT OF THE HANDS OF LEGISLATORS" I don't even know what to say to this.

Pray tell, what other appropriations of tax dollars do you want to get out of the hands of legislators?

And the reason I'm glad I don't live in Illinois right now is because it's being run by that Hugo Chavez impersonator, Rod Blagojevich.

conservative 12 years ago

I think it's time someone look at how the money is being spent. Based on the numbers in this article they are spending 7777.77 per student (3.5 billion divided by 450,000). Meanwhile with the tuition hike expected to be approved today for Kansas Universities it is only going to cost $6152 for a full time student to attend 2 semesters at KU. It will only cost $3192 for 2 semesters at Fort Hays St. So much for the myth of higher education costing too much. I realize that schools have extra costs such as lunches, etc. But still seems very high per student to me. I know I can send my 2 kids to a private school for less than 15,000 per year, so obviously it is possible to provide quality education for less than what the state of Kansas is funding.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

At last count, the KCK district had about 19,500 students enrolled (virtually all at-risk).

19,500 x $10,000 = $195,000,000

The Kansas City, KS district is being severely short-changed.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

Here's another problem with how school districts then allocate their already-underfunded aid.

35-40% of the school district funding must generally be allocated to special education services, which is required by law (not the percentage, but the services to be provided/funded)

For the "typical," general education student...they are being disadvantaged.

conservative 12 years ago

Agnostick, I agree with some of what you are saying, but not all private schools are funded by churches. Century School on Kentucky is privately owned, and receives no outside support of which I am aware. Tuition there is in the neighborhood of 500 per month per student. That is only 12,000 per year, still well below the level of funding at public schools, plus the owners are making a profit.

Textbooks are a separate cost at "Public" Schools. I give a check every August to my kids public school for tuition, fees, and books. And the cost of that check isn't included in the funding being given by the state. Not to mention the constant fundraisers for selling wrapping paper, candy, candles, etc. I bet Kansas schools raise at least as much in fundraising as what the average Kansas univeristy does.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

erichaar--Sorry to sound so extreme on my statement.

There is no provision or article in the Illinois State Consitution that mandates the Legislaure to adaquately fund the public schools.

The State of Illinois has a system that allows residential, commercial and industrial tax payers within a local school district to impose their own tax rate, through a referendum vote, which is the primary foundation of a district's funding.

We don't have to worry about the political squabble of Springfield, or shun the Illinois Supreme Court for intervening into matters that traditionally would not be for a higher court to become involved in.

The pressure, and choice, is primarily on constituents of a school district. After all, they will collectively be funding it by roughly 85-90%

If they want superb teachers, better be prepared to cough up and pay for it.

If they want newer buildings, better be prepared to cough up and pay for it.

If they want state-of-the-art and competitive programs/services for students, better be prepared to cough up and pay for it.

If they want continuing education services for adults and parents, better be prepared to cough up and pay for it.

And if they don't cough up and pay for it...then the teacher's union calls a strike after a potential failed collective bargaining process.

Puts a TON of responsibility on a local community and their TIF (tax increment finance district). Not a state legislature.

And how nice it would be, as a teacher, at the age of 35 to be making $79,000 with advanced master's degrees paid for through a school district. And then retire at the age of 53 with a guaranteed pension 66% of the last 4 years' teaching salaries, with a legal annual increase of 3% until death.

By Kansas standards, this would be a fleecing of tax dollars.

But in Illinois, it is seen as though everybody wins (except for conservative tax watchdog groups who demand "responsible" use of taxes). Top, quality teachers recruited through a very competitive process for the top jobs. Funded schools, buildings and programs for the students. Extremely competitive salaries for professors and research think-tanks.

Sorry for the Illinois soap-box example-after-example. But I only know 2 states very well: Kansas and Illinois.

Despite our respective political opinions--One works. One struggles.

And when you have undereducated, religiously-motivated Legislators and policy makers having a hand in EVERY SINGLE affair of a will always struggle and remain tertiary factor to everybody else around.

My views are extreme in Kansas. Mainstream elsewhere.

That puzzles and saddens me greatly, to be honest.

Jayhawk226 12 years ago

I apologize for the extra-long post...I may not be able to post again for a few hours.


; )

bigbuzzsaw 12 years ago

This is a case of the legislature taking advantage of our constitutional system of checks and balances.

The majority party of the legislature finds it expedient to steer clear of issues (i.e. tax increase) that will upset the constituents back home. They do this knowing that the courts will, over time, be drawn into the issue via citizen lawsuits. The courts will rule that the legislature's failure to appropriate money is unconstitutional, and in so doing the courts give the legislature (majority party) the big WIN they were looking for.

In short: the legislature gets to keep their voting records clean by voting down any new tax increase. Later after the courts have done the dirty work and ruled that the legislature must find new revenues, the legislature can tell their constituents that they were forced to raise taxes by a power mad, over-reaching judge somewhere. The work gets done, hands remain clean, anger and blame shifted to untouchable unelected judges.

Christine Pennewell Davis 12 years ago

Just make lawrence the vegas of the midwest.

Christine Pennewell Davis 12 years ago

oh well no takers on the vegas of the midwest bummer just think of all the controversy.

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