Advertisement

Archive for Friday, February 12, 2010

Kansas Supreme Court declines to reopen school finance lawsuit

The highest court in the state says it will not reopen a lawsuit involving Kansas schools and budget issues. Justices said the lawsuit should be taken back to district courts.

February 12, 2010, 9:37 a.m. Updated February 12, 2010, 11:18 a.m.

Advertisement

— The Kansas Supreme Court denied a petition Friday from school districts seeking to reopen a 2006 school finance case, saying there is nothing that districts can’t accomplish by filing a new lawsuit.

Attorneys for a coalition of 74 districts argued that Kansas is failing to comply with the court’s earlier ruling that state aid to schools was unconstitutionally low.

“Today’s ruling was a procedural one which will just slow us down a bit,” said John Robb, lead attorney for the school districts that filed the petition. “We are disappointed in the ruling but certainly not deterred. The problem still exists. Kids are still being shortchanged.”

The justices ruled that while they have the power to reopen a case, it should be used with extreme caution and that there were other issues that must be resolved, including whether the original plaintiffs have standing to sue.

“The power to recall a mandate is an extraordinary power to be used as a last resort,” Chief Justice Robert Davis wrote for the court. “It should only be used to accomplish something that, without it, cannot otherwise be remedied. That is not the situation here.”

Robb said a new lawsuit would be filed later this spring. Alan Rupe, a Wichita attorney who argued the first case, said the petition was “a long shot” and that a new case was necessary.

The view from Lawrence

Scott Morgan, the Lawrence school board president, said Friday morning that the court’s decision did not surprise him, and he said the district will remain focused on trying to cut $5 million from its budget for next school year.

“If manna from heaven were to fall on us through a court case or some mysterious split in the universe, we would certainly welcome it and utilize it,” he said. “But in the real world we’re living in, we have to proceed.”

The Lawrence district in 2006 contributed $5,000 to the school finance lawsuit, but the district now is not a member of Schools for Fair Funding Inc.

Morgan said he hoped legislators this session would increase revenue so school districts don’t have to make any deeper cuts than they are expecting.

Gov. Mark Parkinson said in a statement he was pleased with the court’s ruling, but he expressed concern about lawsuits being filed against the state during tough economic times.

“However, we have a responsibility to fund education at an acceptable level even in a recession. We’ve cut education as much as we can,” he said.

Attorney General Steve Six said he was ready to defend the state against a new lawsuit.

“Our children’s education is critical to the prosperity of our state,” Six said in a statement. “I encourage lawmakers to limit cuts to schools and find a responsible solution to our state’s budget challenges.”

Back in 1999

The original case was filed in 1999 by the parents of Ryan Montoy, a student in the Salina school district. Attorneys argued that the formula Kansas used to determine the amount of money legislators were appropriating to schools and how the money was distributed was unconstitutional.

Legislators responded in the 2005 and 2006 sessions by approving hundreds of millions of dollars in funding over several years and changing how those dollars were allocated among the 293 districts. The Supreme Court dismissed the case in 2006 without ruling if the changes to the funding formula or the dollar amounts were in compliance with the state constitution.

Robb, a Newton attorney who also represented the districts when the court ruled on the case, argued that the justices should reopen it because they never ruled if the action legislators took on school funding was constitutional.

Six argued that the school districts were trying to get around a 2005 law requiring any challenge to the school finance formula be filed at the district court level first and heard by a three-judge panel.

Education funding has been reduced over the past year as the state has faced declining revenues. The school districts argue the cuts hurt the quality of education. Six said in his reply that Kansas has experienced “dramatic changes” that have forced the state to reduce government spending to meet its constitutional obligation to have a balanced budget.

Robb said it would save time and money to finish the Montoy case, rather than start again.

In their motion to the Supreme Court, the schools cited a school finance case in Arkansas that was dismissed but later reopened by that state’s Supreme Court after legislators reneged on promises to increase funding. Robb argues a similar situation exists in Kansas.

The justices said in that ruling that any new challenge to the school funding formula would have to come in a new lawsuit filed in district court.

Journal-World reporter George Diepenbrock contributed to this story.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

Take it to District Court then. There is already a Supreme Court ruling that the DC must honor, so it should be a slam dunk.

getreal 4 years, 10 months ago

Unfortunately, it will be another long drawn out battle. Why is it that Kansas students must go to court over and over to have their constitutional rights upheld? Time for some new faces in the legislature. Just think if they would fund schools, a court case wouldn't be necessary.

july241983 4 years, 10 months ago

If they really wanted to start this case out in the Supreme Court, instead of trying to recall the mandate in Montoy, they should have tried a writ of mandamus, arguing that the Legislature has not performed its duty to fund the schools. This would have had original jurisdiction in the Supreme Court, without the procedural messiness of trying to recall the mandate. Of course, a writ of mandamus would probably be denied for the same reason the motion to recall the mandate was denied, because the district court is fully equipped to consider the lawsuit.

ralphralph 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't recall exactly the terms of the previous Supreme Court ruling, but it seems like its main points were something like this:

1 - The Kansas Constitution (not mere statute) requires that the State provide adequate funding for education.

2 - The State had determined what level was adequate, by its own studies, but had failed to fund education at that level.

3 - The State must, by Constitutional mandate (not mere statute), fund education at an adequate level ... or else! (the "else", I suppose, being that the Court would intervene and take over the schools ... not a great thought).

In any event, because the mandate to fund the schools comes from the Kansas Constitution, which is the supreme law of the State, created by "The People", it overrides obligations created by the legislature or the executive branch. As such, education funding cannot be cut in the manner of other spending. It would be my impression that if the State is low on money, they must first cut programs which are not Constitutionally mandated ... say, for example the Department of Commerce, before touching the school budget.

Moreover, because the State has wrested budgetary and taxing control from local boards, all school taxes are collected locally, shipped to Topeka, then redistributed back out to the districts according to the magic formula. During their time in Topeka, those funds do not (or at least should not) become commingled with general or other funds, and should not lose their identity as school funds. The funds are, in effect, held by the State IN TRUST for the benefit of the local districts to whom the funds must be returned. If the funds are inadequate, the State must kick in the difference.

Bottom Line: You cannot include school funding in any "across-the-board" budget cuts, because the mandate to fund the schools in set forth by the Constitution, and because the funding mechanism is distinguishable from those of other State operations.

Even in hard times, the State MUST fund the schools first.

situveux1 4 years, 10 months ago

In FY 2010, education makes up just over 66% of the state budget, K-12 52%.

Even in hard times, the state IS funding the schools first.

KSManimal 4 years, 10 months ago

situveux1 (Anonymous) says…

"In FY 2010, education makes up just over 66% of the state budget, K-12 52%.

Even in hard times, the state IS funding the schools first."

But the constitution doesn't say "fund schools first", or "spend at least 50% of the total budget on schools". What it says is the legislature must "make suitable provision for the finance of public schools". It makes no concession for skirting that obligation when the economy is in recession.

"Suitable" is defined in the legislatures' own study ( http://www.kslegislature.org/postaudit/audits_perform/05pa19a.pdf ) as well as others ( http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=ouWNxVHAeGo%3d&tabid=1916 ). Both studies showed funding about a billion dollars short - five to ten years ago. Now that funding is STILL where it was in 2006, that figure - the underfunded amount - is likely significantly higher.

Olympics 4 years, 10 months ago

When Brownback gets hired by people voting against their economic interest, we can eliminate most of the science teachers and the associated textbooks/lab space, etc.... We have enough bibles (I mean, science textbooks) in the state for every living creature (include most unicellular organisms who's existence will be soon forgotten anyways).

These cutbacks just help with the transition to Idiocracy.

We can bring 18th century knowledge into the 21st! Yes we can! Yes we can!

Thinking_Out_Loud 4 years, 10 months ago

getreal asked "Why is it that Kansas students must go to court over and over to have their constitutional rights upheld?"

Because they don't vote.

LogicMan 4 years, 10 months ago

"It would be my impression that if the State is low on money, they must first cut programs which are not Constitutionally mandated"

And that's exactly what Sebelius did at the start of this fiscal crisis - cut everything but K-12. But the crisis worsened and everything had to be cut. Now even more cuts are needed, and K-12 must be a big part of them since it's half the budget.

"Adequate education" is therefore the key. In my opinion teaching just the three R's, in larger classes, is "adequate". We'd like to do much better, and hopefully we can return to such after solving this money mess that both the country and the world is in.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

New larger buildings will cost millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollars. No savings here.

Our paid for school buildings are worth millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollar savings.

It is more apparent than ever that school districts are needing additional sources of funding. Teachers deserve salary increases and decent health insurance. Our legislature is not a reliable source although by law it is a state responsibility.

Neighborhood schools are good for Lawrence. No Lawrence neighborhood wants to be without an elementary school within the neighborhood. Lawrence has spoken out on this issue numerous times.

There are families that which cannot afford two cars or bus transportation. Therefore walking and/or bicycling become the modes of choice.

How do we solve this problem for the long term?

Two revenue sources are available

  • online state wide sales tax dedicated to public schools only is a reasonable source.

  • a local source to help fund USD 497 medical insurance, salaries, and perhaps school fees. This could become available as a dedicated City of Lawrence USD 497 user fee: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Of course these mechanisms will only be supplemental.

All USD 497 schools benefit.

Perhaps experienced USD 497 teachers will stop fleeing to Blue Valley as well.

puddleglum 4 years, 10 months ago

enough of this judiciary regulation! if the parents' kids can't afford the schooling, don't have children.

or sign up for the sterilization act of 2011.

go puddleglum!

Godot 4 years, 10 months ago

ralphreed makes a good point when he says, "It would be my impression that if the State is low on money, they must first cut programs which are not Constitutionally mandated ."

Such as the funding of colleges and universities?

KS 4 years, 10 months ago

Good decision. Let the school districts live within their means just like the rest of us.

Ralph Reed 4 years, 10 months ago

@ GODOT: I wasn't the one you quoted at 1319., that was "ralphralph."


I find it interesting though that, at least in USD 497, we're looking at closing neighborhood schools and consolidating (and laying off teachers in the process), while the district was able to find several million in "magic money" to build "identical" athletic facilities. A single set of shared facilities would have been fine. But, as someone said, we get what we pay for - in this instance we get a school board more interested in sparing athletics and rodding the child.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

What we have is some school board members who came in believing it is the job of USD 497 to promote growth. Which translates into reckless spending.

USD 497 should focus on education, maintaining existing buildings,be fiscally responsible and not cater to our local chamber of commerce. http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/may/should_city_spend_20_million_or_more_play_project/

Gary Denning 4 years, 10 months ago

In responose to RalphReed, you may not be aware that capital outlay dollars for building projects comes from a local mill levy, not Topeka. So long as property values remain strong in 497, the mill levy will generate money for these expenditures. It is actually against the law for your school board to spend this money on teachers' salaries and the like.

Of course this leads to some awkward moments for your school district when they have money to spend on athletic fields, etc., while at the same time having insufficient funds to pay teachers.

kugrad 4 years, 10 months ago

Read the article. They are just saying that a new lawsuit can address the issues, therefore re-opening the old one is unnecessary.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

It wouldn't surprise me, although they would never admit it, that the SC didn't take up the case because if they ruled against the legislature, the legislature would retaliate by cutting funding to the judicial system-- something they are already dealing with.

Gary Denning 4 years, 10 months ago

quoted from above: "Adequate education” is therefore the key. In my opinion teaching just the three R's, in larger classes, is “adequate”. We'd like to do much better, and hopefully we can return to such after solving this money mess that both the country and the world is in.

The state constitution, QPA, IDEA, and a number of other laws disagree with your opinion about what is meant by "adequate education". The State could do a better job of trying this case than former AG Kline (couldn't do much worse), but I expect a similar result after both sides spend a few mil arguing.

4getabouit 4 years, 10 months ago

I predict that when Brownback is elected (slam dunk) he will push for legislation to allow for more local levy support of the general fund. This will allow the state to dodge the politics of tax increases and push the burden back to the locals. Johnson Co. legislators will get in bed with this one due to valuation wealth. This action will de-stabalize the equity provisions of the current formula, causing huge financial disparities between wealthy and poor school districts ......and, ultimately result in another "equity lawsuit" like we had 20 some years ago. So, I put my money on a new lawsuit one way or another. "Bring lawyers, guns and money." W. Zevon

Godot 4 years, 10 months ago

New Jersey Gov. Christie is cutting $500,000,000 from school funding in the next four months; all in all, cuts total over $2 billion. The entire country (except maybe North Dakota) is insolvent.

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/02/nj_gov_christie_announces_stat_1.html

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

KSManimal (Anonymous) says…

"But the constitution doesn't say “fund schools first”, or “spend at least 50% of the total budget on schools”. What it says is the legislature must “make suitable provision for the finance of public schools”. It makes no concession for skirting that obligation when the economy is in recession."

It also does not set any form of minimum dollar figure, nor does it define 'suitable' any furthur.

"“Suitable” is defined in the legislatures' own study ( http://www.kslegislature.org/postaudi… ) as well as others ( http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fi… )."

Why, yes, it is. So you DO recognize the right of the legislature to define "suitable". And now they're saying less is "suitable".

There is no correlation between school spending and performance. Numerous studies have failed to find such a link. Maybe, just maybe, there's a better solution than the typical liberal response of throwing money at the problem (which worked soooooo well in Kansas City MO, after all).

KSManimal 4 years, 10 months ago

Notajayhawk says:

"There is no correlation between school spending and performance."

You're wrong:

http://www.kasb.org/legis/EducationFu

Not only that, but the legislature's own 2010 commission report showed that for every 0.83% increase in funding, there was a commensurate 1% increase in district performance outcomes. Google Chairperson Chronister's testimony to see for yourself.

So yes, there IS data to show more money = better schools; AND that data shows the payoff is about 120%.

However, I fully expect you and your ilk will continue to spout uninformed rhetoric in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Your kind cannot allow facts to interfere with your position on any issues. Perhaps that's why you feel so threatened by a quality educational system. It'd be a bit difficult to recruit new zealots if everyone had a good education, wouldn't it?

(anyone notice I posted the exact same thing a while ago, and SHOCKINGLY.....the ignorant rhetoric is still spewing forth. Shocking).

kugrad 4 years, 10 months ago

There is a definite correlation between school spending and performance. Just look at the last few years. When spending went up, performance rose by a percentage close to, but greater than, the percentage of the funding increase. Now, watch what happens to performance over the last few years.

One major problem with politicians deciding what is best for education is analogous to the discussions on these boards. Here we have a group of people including some who actually know something about education. Those who know anything about it are often ignored and those who have pretty much no clue about it whatsoever post constantly, often repeating the same incorrect information over and over again. I.

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2438214220070524

"Washington, D.C., has among the highest spending in the country but its students have among the lowest scores on standardized tests, while some states like Montana with relatively low spending have fairly high performance on tests."

"Loveless said two areas where education spending might make a difference were in teacher salaries and small class sizes for first graders. But overall, the relationship between spending on education and test performance was not strong, he said."

http://www.npri.org/blog/does-more-spending-increase-student-performance

"NPRI has said it over and over and over again, but more spending does not equal better student performance or achievement. Below you will see the comparison between overall K-12 education spending and the NAEP fourth-grade reading scores. This is a very simple comparison, but even the more complex studies continue to show that there is no statistical relationship between spending and student performance."

There are more recent studies that partly dispute those conclusions. But as long as we've known that more money does not mean better performance, we've known that what we spend it on could be the solution, as mentioned in this citation from a 1993 study:

http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/custom/portlets/recordDetails/detailmini.jsp?nfpb=true&&ERICExtSearch_SearchValue_0=ED357503&ERICExtSearch_SearchType_0=no&accno=ED357503

"A small but statistically significant, negative correlation existed between spending and achievement in every subject in every grade level, with the exception of grade 11, where there was no significant correlation between the variables. An implication is that giving schools more money does not necessarily raise student achievement, probably because the majority of school funds are used for personnel costs. It is suggested that schools may need to target specific programs with any increase in school funding rather than have the funds spread throughout the school."

In other words, maybe if we spent the money on reading, writing, and math instead of 'performing arts' and so forth, our kids could learn to read and write instead of how to bluff their way through a job interview. In any event, the evidence has been pretty well known for a long time - it's not how much we spend on education, but HOW we spend it.

windex 4 years, 10 months ago

KU7679 says: In my opinion teaching just the three R's, in larger classes, is “adequate”.

REALLY? Stick to Readin', Writin' and 'Rithmetic? OK, here's what KU7679 thinks we should cut: 1) Science 2) Social Studies 3) Foreign Languages 4) P.E. 5) Technology 6) Music 7) Art 8) History, Civics & Government 9) Vocational Skills 10) Most Math (since "Rithmetic" gets you through, oh, about the 3rd grade.)

Yep, that definitely sounds like a terrific plan for setting the next generation up to compete in the global marketplace...

KSManimal 4 years, 10 months ago

notajayhawk, you can quote studies of Washington, DC if you like; but we're talking about Kansas - different students with different needs. HERE; funding matters:

http://www.kasb.org/legis/EducationFundingJune2009.pdf

"Funding Increases and Academic Results. Between 1998 and 2009, general fund budgets increased by $941 million, or 41.6 percent. 60 percent of that amount ($583 million) was targeted funding for special education, at-risk programs, bilingual education, vocational education and mandatory transportation costs. School districts increased local option budgets by $673 million. What were the results of that funding? • Between 2000 and 2008, the percent of students scoring proficient or higher on all four state assessments increased at equal to or greater than the percentage increase in both school district budgets and state aid. • For every student group that received targeted funding increases the achievement gap on state assessments narrowed substantially. • Kansas ACT scores increased every year, exceeding both the average and rate of increase for both Kansas and other states with universities in the “Big 12.” • On the National Assessment of Education Progress, Kansas reading and math scores increased from 12th in the nation in 2003 to 7th in 2007. Between 1996 and 2006, Kansas increased its national ranking for graduation rates from 21st to 16th. On every measure, Kansas academic indicators have improved; where there was targeted additional funding, the improvement was even greater, and on every national comparative measure, Kansas improved faster than the national average."

You're right, targeted funding makes the most difference....but only because targeted money is targeted towards the problem areas - those areas with potential for improvement. (throw $ at the kids in the 99th percentile..and they'll show zero improvement....). Kansas made great progress in narrowing achievement gaps of at-risk groups of students - when the $ was there to do so.

Where do you think the recent cuts are going to come from? There going to come from those programs that got targeted funds to begin with. That's the "fat" people talk about - programs that literally change lives of kids across Kansas.

Stand by to watch that progress go right down the dumper; in the name of saving us all from a one-cent sales tax, or saving us from asking everyone to pay sales tax at all.

And, stand by to watch the crime rate and prison population grow as a direct result.

situveux1 4 years, 10 months ago

Any school capital improvement is funded by state funds to the tune of 25%. So anytime a local district decides to build a new school the rest of the state picks up a quarter of the tab, thus taking funds that might have otherwise been used for instructional purposes.

situveux1 4 years, 10 months ago

Saying funding makes a better student in Kansas but not Washington DC doesn't make sense. If funding matters, then it should improve a student wherever they are. It's illogical to say funding only makes a better student if they happen to reside in Kansas.

Funding does matter, after all it's hard to learn if there's no school, no teachers. But with billions and billions spent a few more million isn't going to magically jack up achievement in a few years.

I've always been concerned with the focus on achievement. After all, what good does all that achievement do if they can't find a job after they're out? That's where a lot of college grads find themselves today.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

If extra funding doesn't help schools, why does it help businesses who are always clamoring for more tax breaks? Can't they just fire some of their executives (administrators) and fire a bunch of their employees and/or pay them less money, and just all around be less wasteful?

situveux1 4 years, 10 months ago

I think businesses have done that bozo, which is probably why the unemployment rate is at 9.7%.

Godot 4 years, 10 months ago

"just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (Anonymous) says…

If extra funding doesn't help schools, why does it help businesses who are always clamoring for more tax breaks? Can't they just fire some of their executives (administrators) and fire a bunch of their employees and/or pay them less money, and just all around be less wasteful?"

Bingo, bongo, Bozo!!!

TARP was a waste, stimulus was a waste, and throwing more money at bloated so-called education-centered bureaucracies is also a waste. Whenever government attempts to take control of individuals and their enterprise, waste and corruption ensues.

Give Bozo a good ole Amercan Corvette for coming to the realization that rewarding failure leads to more failure.

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

KSManimal (Anonymous) says…

"you can quote studies of Washington, DC if you like; but we're talking about Kansas - different students with different needs. HERE; funding matters:"

Well, if you can make comments like that, at least you've demonstrated the need for better education.

"What were the results of that funding?"

Um - with all due respect to the Kansas Association of School Boards - which isn't much, apparently - there is no such thing as 'the result of that funding'. Even if a single datum point demonstrated a correlation - which it doesn't - it's a pretty basic tenet of research that correlation can't show causation.

Like, for instance, when people make spurious claims like "And, stand by to watch the crime rate and prison population grow as a direct result."

"60 percent of that amount ($583 million) was targeted funding for special education, at-risk programs, bilingual education, vocational education and mandatory transportation costs."

Or, in other words, it's not how much was spent, but how it was spent. Gee, wish I'd said that. Oh, wait ...


Number_1_Grandma (Anonymous) says…

"why can't you people understand… that capital outlay dollars for building projects comes from a local mill levy, not legislators?. It is actually “against the law” for the school board to spend this money on teachers' salaries.

"Keep these separate issues separate."

Why can't you people understand? Whether it's in local mil levy assessments or in state-collected GR funds, it's still money coming out of the taxpayers' pockets and being spent by the school boards. If it's against the law to mix those funds, then perhaps THAT is the problem in the first place.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.