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Opinion

Opinion

Education ace

The state’s constitutional requirement to “make suitable provision for finance” of Kansas public schools may create a challenging budget situation for state legislators next year.

December 27, 2009

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When it comes to state funding, K-12 schools in Kansas have an ace in the hole.

Although the Kansas Constitution allows spending for various state needs, that spending is mandated for the state’s public schools. According to the constitution, “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

School districts across the state made use of their special funding status in 1999 by filing a lawsuit claiming the state was not meeting its constitutional duty to properly fund public schools. Now, they are asking the Kansas Supreme Court to revisit that case, which resulted in 2005 and 2006 orders to increase state funding to public schools.

The concerns of 70 school districts involved in the coalition requesting the review certainly are valid. Although the court’s earlier rulings resulted in significant increases in the state’s base aid per pupil, budget cuts instituted this year have reduced that amount to a figure below what the Supreme Court found to be inadequate in 2006. The districts say that not only is unconscionable, it is unconstitutional.

Many legislators would argue that the decrease is purely a result of the national economic downturn that has put a severe squeeze on state revenues. That obviously is a major issue, but school districts and others can point to tax cuts and tax exemptions that seem to have exacerbated the problem.

Asking the Supreme Court to revisit the earlier case is an appropriate first step. Districts are seeking the court’s support for increased funding without incurring the additional costs of litigating a new lawsuit.

However, if the court upholds the districts’ contention that their current funding level is unconstitutional, it will be interesting to see how the Legislature reacts. Public schools clearly are not the only entity suffering extreme hardship in the current budget situation. Higher education spending has been cut to the bone. Waiting lists are growing for Kansans needing public assistance. Reduced Medicaid reimbursements are hitting care providers who likely will respond by reducing their services to Medicaid patients.

K-12 schools have the backing of a constitution that says “the legislature shall” provide for their funding, but will that mean even greater hardship for state-supported activities not mentioned in the constitution?

State school districts are hurting, and it’s hard to fault them for playing their constitutional card. However, a Supreme Court ruling in their favor would produce a funding challenge that state legislators would be hard-pressed to address fairly.

Comments

finance 4 years, 3 months ago

My, my. All the tongue-wagging about Astroturf. Why? Is it something exotic? Ask yourself just for a moment: is it more expensive? When? Initially? Long-term considering regular maintenance and eventual replacement? What if Astroturf actually ended up costing less than sod when everything is factored out?

Oh, you don't want to even consider such things? Aha, I thought not. Your mind is made up, and Astroturf truly is just a bad idea because, well--just because! Oh, now I get it: why have any surface covering at all? Mud would do fine. Tsk, tsk.

It really doesn't matter to me whether it's more expensive or less expensive--before or after any factoring of net cost. It's more interesting to observe the heated invective flying about over a word--Astroturf--as if it's something from the Jetsons. Well, I can understand why my thought about the Jetsons makes sense--after all, I am criticizing the local space cadets (that would be you, most likely). Cheers.

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parrothead8 4 years, 3 months ago

notajayhawk (Anonymous) says… The liberal definition of a 'logical' argument: It's okay to raise taxes on someone else, as long as it doesn't hurt the freeloaders.

The conservative definition of a freeloader: 3rd-graders who need textbooks.

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 3 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

Bump for public education = a best bang for the tax buck!


Btw, Richard, topics don't "bump" on this forum.

You can go back to the Larryville echo chamber now.

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notajayhawk 4 years, 3 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

"Remember 70% of voting voters in a high turnout CHOSE to support the T."

Not everyone who has to fund it got to vote, mertle. And even fewer of those who voted actually support the mT by riding it.

"Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries?"

You're seriously citing online LJW polls as evidence, mertle?

"Irresponsible management of tax dollars is the problem in Kansas aka Wreckanomics."

I completely agree. The school districts' squandering of our tax dollars must be stopped.

Correct me if I'm wrong, mert - weren't you vehemently spewing objections to the Lawrence school district's recent purchase of land?

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 3 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

Remember 70% of voting voters in a high turnout CHOSE to support the T.


So responsible management of tax dollars is subject to the whim of public opinion, Richard?

I guess all those folks who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, and thus, a continuation of his prosecution of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were right then, eh?

And I guess all those folks who voted to approve the construction of the SLT along the original alignment were right, eh, Richard?

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finance 4 years, 3 months ago

Oh, bullfarkle. Okay, I'll lead the community benefit crusade here. Even though I currently pay my ad valorum taxes on the last possible day before penalties are assessed, I willingly offer to do the following:

  1. Pay my property taxes on the same day my tax statement is received. I know it's symbolic as the money won't actually leave the county treasurer's office until the distribution date, but wow--what heroic and well-meant symbolism!

  2. Allow my taxes to be increased infinitely in support of public education. And to sweeten the deal, I also agree to vote YES on every school tax initiative and to contribute cash to the school district's education foundation. By the way, see my earlier post in response to an earlier article--it will be years before my school tax effort is equal to my tax effort in prior years, so I'm still in a tax-advantaged position for at least another decade. Point is, I'm willing to pay more for YOUR CHILDREN--unbelievable, but true! And the clincher, I'm willing to do it today even without any of the benefits recognized above.

How will you know I've done any of these things? You won't. But I'll sleep well tonight, while you sleep puckered up in misery over your miniscule little worries.

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commuter 4 years, 3 months ago

Fund education by using the money was approved for the T or start taxing Merrill more.

Start educating people that Internet sales are not tax free- if no sales tax was charged, you have to pay use tax.

Start taxing KU Athletics and KU Endowmwment.

Start charging sales tax for sporting events (high school, college, & professional), if not done already.

If the state is going to increase the amount given to education, cap the amount of raise people who make over a certain amount can get each year until the economy gets better.

Start taxing the LEA & KNEA.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Bump for public education = a best bang for the tax buck!

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Remember 70% of voting voters in a high turnout CHOSE to support the T.

Just as I am sure 70% or more of taxpayers would choose to support public education to the point where no teacher would need to purchase supplies necessary to reach the student.

Just as I am sure taxpayers would like to see continuity in teacher salaries. Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? 80% of 5,198 participants said yes! http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Just as I am sure taxpayers would love the opportunity to vote on $20 million sports projects but are denied out of fear the taxpayers would say NO! PLAY http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

Just as I am sure taxpayers are wondering why $16.5 million worth building maintenance was placed on the back burner in favor of a $20 million sports extravaganza!

*School Maintenance http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/jul/what_do_you_think_proposed_3mill_property_tax_incr/

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 3 months ago

merrill (Anonymous) says…

Irresponsible management of tax dollars is the problem in Kansas...


You mean like the empTy, Richard? Spending nearly $4+ million per year to serve less than one percent of the population? Yeah, I'd agree, that's completely irresponsible.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 3 months ago

Beware: TABOR Is Coming After devastating government services in Colorado, the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights" threatens to spread. http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2005/0705rebne.html

Both the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the greater majority of legislators subscribe to the above Grover Norquist fantasy economic philosophy. The great believers of privatization under the facade that private business operates more fiscally responsible. Yeah since when?

Privatization only means our tax dollars go to private industry yet will NOT save money or in this case will NOT necessarily provide a better education.

This "no new taxes" mantra is nothing but a bunch of crap. Irresponsible management of tax dollars is the problem in Kansas aka Wreckanomics.

Every time a new pork barrel road is built it increases our taxes. Turning away the cleaner energy industry increases our taxes by NOT creating thousands of jobs associated with that industry.

JOCO metro has no trouble drawing new industry and coincidently they also take care of their school district. Failure to fund Kansas public schools and higher education has put Kansas in national news headlines more than once which is to say it is no secret.

Bringing this lawsuit back to the surface Kansas will once again find itself making national news.

Yes Kansas did elect the mistakes that represent Kansas. Fortunately the Lawrence area contingency do not subscribe to Grover Norquist thinking. Too bad they are not the majority.

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 3 months ago

finance (Anonymous) says…

Pilgrim2: we've all heard, ad nauseum, your repetition of the same 36 words—please get a new line.


As soon as you quit regurgitating that more money fixes it.

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finance 4 years, 3 months ago

I know, I know. I promised only one post. But it's too much fun to pass up just "one more".

Response to justsaying: Thank you for your vote of support! Wow!!!! That might make a Kansas political opinion ratio of 2,802,134 minus 4--or a 2,802,130:1 ratio (that would be the 2008 Kansas census estimate, where it breaks down as the Brownback extremist crowd versus everyone else--all proud 4 of us!). We're gaining here and will soon be a force to be reckoned with! Long live the pro-tax/pro-public education clan! Chuckle. I told you--isn't this fun? Recommended reading: "What's Wrong with Kansas." Read slowly and sound out the syllables, and be sure to try to puzzle out why the poor clamor for the rich to cut their taxes. Joke's on you!

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justsaying 4 years, 3 months ago

I like your comments KUgrad, Finance and Texburgh.

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texburgh 4 years, 3 months ago

"K-12 schools have the backing of a constitution that says “the legislature shall” provide for their funding, but will that mean even greater hardship for state-supported activities not mentioned in the constitution?"

No. Consider this. The Legislature has cut corporate taxes and taxes on the wealthy by a cumulative $10 billion since 1995. If they had only granted $9 billion in corporate welfare we would not have a budget problem today - not for schools, not for the disabled, not for highways or public safety or senior citizens.

With a legislature wholly owned by the Koch brothers, this disaster is what you get.

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notajayhawk 4 years, 3 months ago

kugrad (Anonymous) says…

"Don't give me that canard about how harmful it would be to raise taxes during a recession. It is not a logical argument. Those who are unemployed or have experienced significant economic harm during the recession will not pay taxes as they won't have the income to be taxed."

The liberal definition of a 'logical' argument: It's okay to raise taxes on someone else, as long as it doesn't hurt the freeloaders.


“The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

Funny, must have missed the dollar figure it mandates in the state's Constitution. Especially as numerous studies have demonstrated there's no correlation between school spending and performance?

Gotta' love these libs who believe there's no other possible solution than to throw more money at the problem. There should be NO capital spending when the school districts are whining they can't pay their teachers and they can't afford to bus the kids to school. There's one area the people of Missouri have proved themselves much smarter than folks in Kansas. A couple of years ago MODOT asked for a tax increase to fix their ailing roads, which were ranked something like 48th in the country. The Missouri voters remembered that MODOT had asked for - and received - a huge increase almost 10 years earlier, when their roads were only ranked around 40th or so. MODOT had built a new headquarters building in each district while the roads continued to deteriorate. The voters had the common sense to say "NO" the second time.

The voters in Kansas should be p*ssed off at the school districts for squandering the money they have rather than at the legislature for telling them they have to spend smarter.

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commuter 4 years, 3 months ago

I think the voters in Johnson County are probally the smartest ones- in order to give the schools more money, they passed a sales tax increase. Did Douglas County voters do that- no- they expect Topeka to give them more money.

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commuter 4 years, 3 months ago

Finance good catch- my post should have started - Easy Solution. If the judges want to legis;late from the bench, maybe they shoukd put their budget where there mouth is a use their budget to help fund education more.

Finance- enjoy your education job.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 3 months ago

The school districts should replace the motto, "In God We Trust" to, "In Astroturf We Trust"!

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SettingTheRecordStraight 4 years, 3 months ago

If you're a PTA member in any of the school districts using taxpayer money to sue taxpayers for more money, drop your membership as soon as possible.

If you're a KNEA member, you should have been out of the union a long, long time ago.

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finance 4 years, 3 months ago

Early New Year resolution by me--to limit myself to only one post on this article. Refreshing! I wish some of you would adopt my same noble determination.

Pilgrim2: we've all heard, ad nauseum, your repetition of the same 36 words--please get a new line. Your current perfectly memorized chant is getting very old. Or at least find some new imagery other than pie to liven up your mantra. How about "budget quiche"? That would give your line some classiness.

Commuter: I can only assume you meant "lazy" (not "lasy"). I seem to recall you're a CPA? Hmmm: you apparently have a great eye for detail. But I've used that phrase before. I concede you could have gotten your CPA training at a private college and never took a single public dollar at any time in your educational life K-12 through higher education, but I'm being very generous--or maybe yours was not a Kansas education.

kugrad and kujayhawk7476: two people inside the borders of Kansas with whom I actually agree! Amazing, but encouraging. We may now be a loose coalition of three.

Since I'm limiting myself to only one post, I'll end with an eye to what will surely follow here. My closing is therefore addressed to all the anti-tax whiners who will earnestly gnaw at their watery gruel this morning and furiously try to think up something new to say (or just repeat themselves, as so many seem prone to do). If you're in this latter category, just remember: I'm not listening. What? You're surprised? You shouldn't be--you haven't been listening to me either. Happy New Year!

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Pilgrim2 4 years, 3 months ago

When you're the one eating the biggest slice of the budget pie, you are also the one who will have to stop eating so much when the doctor says it's time to go on a diet.

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kugrad 4 years, 3 months ago

It was the legislature that cut taxes below the level needed to sustain essential services in Kansas. It is the legislature that needs to recognize their mistake and rectify the situation. Yes, they need to raise taxes. We don't want to pay more than necessary, but we also can't afford to pay less than necessary.

Don't give me that canard about how harmful it would be to raise taxes during a recession. It is not a logical argument. Those who are unemployed or have experienced significant economic harm during the recession will not pay taxes as they won't have the income to be taxed. Those who still have jobs and are making ends meet can afford a small increase. In other words, if you make enough to pay taxes during these times, you can't count yourself among those who are truly hurting, so quit whining and count your blessings.

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GardenMomma 4 years, 3 months ago

Fix the law that says one cannot use capital funds to cover a shortfall of operating funds in times of need.

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commuter 4 years, 3 months ago

Iasy solution, if the Supreme Court says you have to fund education more- just let them know it will come out of their budget and see how quickly the judges change their minds.

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kujayhawk7476 4 years, 3 months ago

Who's at fault, the legislators who know nothing but a "we need to cut taxes" message or we voters who elect those idiots?

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