Archive for Thursday, January 7, 2010

Kansas school district group decides to ask court to re-open school funding lawsuit

January 7, 2010, 8:00 a.m. Updated January 7, 2010, 3:21 p.m.


— A legal dispute over the funding of Kansas public schools is heading back to court, challenging recent cuts in education spending by the state.

John Robb, an attorney for Schools for Fair Funding, said Thursday that he would file a request within 10 days with the Kansas Supreme Court to reopen a lawsuit over the funding of public school districts. The court ruled in 2006 that the state’s system for financing schools was unconstitutional.

Robb said districts across Kansas hoped to avoid litigation to pressure legislators to restore funds, but going to court was “the lesser of two evils.”

“It’s either use the court to enforce the constitution or hurt kids with further cuts,” he said.

The decision to seek further judicial review comes after the Wichita school board voted Monday to support new litigation. The decision raised the number of school districts supporting the case to 55, representing more than 141,000 Kansas students. Additional districts are considering joining the effort.

Robb said the coalition was broad geographically and demographically, representing the state’s largest district in Wichita to Cheylin with 131 students in northwest Kansas.

“We think the tent is big enough this time to represent all the districts in the state,” Robb said.

Funding for Kansas school districts has been reduced over the past year as the state has struggled with declining revenues caused by the lingering economic slowdown. Gov. Mark Parkinson and the Kansas Legislature have reduced total state aid to 2006 levels.

But Robb and the school districts maintain that those reductions fly in the face of the Kansas Supreme Court’s 2006 ruling, which forced the state to increase aid to public schools by close to $1 billion over four years.

Derrick Sontag, state director of Americans for Prosperity, a group that advocates for lower taxes, said schools have seen funding increase by “exorbitant amounts” since the 2003-04 school year, even with last year’s reductions.

State aid for the 2007-08 school year topped $3.1 billion — or $1 billion more than it was in 2003-04. It’s still $2.87 billion for the current school year.

“Spending has drastically gone up,” Sontag said. “This is going to be a battle of getting the correct information out there to Kansans.”

However, Robb said legislators knew it would take new revenues to sustain the spending increases when approved in 2006, yet they continued to cut taxes. The shortfall prompting spending cuts were exacerbated by the bad economy, he said.

“This train wreck was coming the day they passed the reforms,” Robb said. “I find it a little disingenuous that they say there isn’t any money in the checkbook.”

Much of the new money went to programs aimed at boosting academic achievement of at-risk students, including minorities and those in poverty. However, school districts argue that they have been forced to eliminate some 3,700 positions in recent years because of budget cuts, many positions tied directly to student performance.

How quickly the case would get resolved is unclear.

The original lawsuit was filed in 1999 in Shawnee County District Court and took several years to go to trial and reach the Kansas Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court agrees to reopen the case, it could either decide to hear arguments itself or send the case to district court to gather evidence and hear from witnesses.

Robb said there is no precedent for the Kansas Supreme Court to reopen a case that it has dismissed. However, he said a similar situation arose in Arkansas where the court dismissed a school finance lawsuit only to reopen it when legislators reneged on a promise to increase funding.

“We don’t know what the timelines might be,” he said.


skinny 8 years, 5 months ago

I guess they don't know how to make do with what they have!

If we, the people (the state of Kansas) don't have the money, we don't have the money.

I guess they don't care we are in a recession!

james bush 8 years, 5 months ago

What this country needs is more lawyers and diversity trainers.

Jimo 8 years, 5 months ago

"I guess they don't know how to make do with what they have!"

The KS Constitution says that they don't have to "make do". The schools get funded. Period. Discussion over.

Those who don't like it can amend the Constitution. Heck, as the gay marriage business revealed, it is amazingly easy to pass an amendment, and a state constitutional amendment will trump everything (exc. the U.S. Constitution).

But that would of course require opponents to win the argument with voters, and they know very well voters do not and will not agree. Or, opponents could fundamentally reform the entire educational system with the side-benefit of it being more efficient (a/k/a, argue and persuade a complex public policy change to an electorate unwilling to move beyond simplistic, infantile political discussion. I'm talking about you, Karl Rove!). So can we please be done with the whinging about not being able to afford civilization business?

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

We, the people of Kansas, DO have the money. Our state government has been handing out tax abatements like candy to interests that are not even from Kansas. We have lived in a dream world where taxes are cut and cut as though basic services can pay for themselves. We have a lack of honest political discourse characterized by knee-jerk simplistic responses to complex issues and extreme polarization. Let's face it, it takes tax revenues to provide services. Even Ronald Reagan eventually HAD to raise taxes. That is where we are now. We don't have an obligation to fund schools only in good times. This issue has been litigated and the highest courts, which are non partisan, have held that the legislature has failed to meet this constitutional obligation. They no longer have any remedy but to raise taxes. There reasons for not wanting to do so are purely political, not economic. You don't grow an economy by cutting taxes - this has clearly been established at the state and national levels in recent years. Strong schools on the other hand DO grow strong economies. The canard that one hears these days is, "You can't raise taxes in a recession." This makes little sense as the only people who pay any income taxes are people who ARE getting by. Besides, many of the taxes simply need to be reinstated and be paid by businesses who are thriving. There are many profitable businesses who have benefitted from tax cuts while ordinary citizens make up the shortfalls. We can't afford to gut school funding. We can't afford to lose our youngest teachers - the ones who will be laid off. We can't afford the cascading economic effects closing schools have on neighborhoods and nearby business areas. Enough is enough. It is time to face reality, instead of engage in shallow political bickering. Our legislature goofed up. They cut taxes too much, now they need to rectify the problem.

lawrencejna 8 years, 5 months ago

It seems to me, the State government is more concerned with ensuring that THEIR paychecks arrive on time. I hope there aren't any teachers who have their pay delayed because of this. Insufficient school funding is one of those wholly baffling issues that I'll never be able to wrap understand around. How is education not our number one priority? Why do we have schools operating in the state with boarded up windows? Why is it that grade schools can no longer afford ANY type of art program? How do we expect educators to cater lessons so that all their students can pass state assessments without proper books and supplies? How do we expect teachers to continually improve their methods if we ensure, through budget cuts, that they will never get proper pay? How do we expect our children to make their education a top priority if we, as a state, continually evidence that their little educations fall so low on our priority list?

windex 8 years, 5 months ago

HM, Your comments are ridiculous. 1) "If you were a grocery store and had trouble making payroll, would you raise the prices (Taxes) and run customers off, or would you have a sale (Reduce taxes) to generate revenue?" ----- For crying out loud, Public Education is not a business. You can't apply a business model to it. It does not exist to generate income or profit. It exists to educate the public, something that directly benefits you on a daily basis, whether you acknowledge it or not.

2) Less than half the people even pay taxes? Really? Which "people" are you talking about? Please provide a source for this statistic. If you're including those freeloading, mooching subgroups of children, the elderly and the disabled, shame on you. You should change your screen name to Scrooge. You should be happy that you are able to contribute (as no doubt you do, when you're not obsessing about hippies) to the greater good.

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

healthcare_moocher, You wrote,"The liberal/hippie movement from the 60's is what has caused this welfare state we live in now where less than half the people even pay taxes. " Maybe you should study US History instead of making things up. Your statement is absurd.

Your analogy about grocery stores is just stupid. It makes no logical sense whatsoever. Besides, if you have paid any attention at the grocery store, you'd notice that they have indeed raised prices in hard economic times. My grocery bill hasn't dropped during the recession, it has gone up, and so has everyone else's. When a person can't pay their bills, they have to go out and earn more money. If the reason you don't make enough money is because you did lots of work for people and then allowed them not to pay you, you would stop that practice. Well the government has allowed corporations and other special interests it has helped to benefit from Kansas infrastructure without paying their fair share of taxes. They did this through excessive abatements. They also provided all of us with essential government services, not the least of which being education, but failed to ask for sufficient revenues to support the necessary level of services. They didn't fail to ask for the taxes because it was good for Kansas, but rather did so to satisfy their own political careers and the demands of out-of-state groups that promote anti-tax policies nationwide. Now, judging from your response to me and Windex, I gather you failed to take advantage of the education provided to you, but if you work and live in this state you have benefitted from government services including the education of those who did pay some attention in class, so you owe taxes just like the rest of us. You can't both have appropriate government services and pay less taxes than those services cost.

texburgh 8 years, 5 months ago

"This sword over the head of the public has to end."

Not sure if "toe" thinks the constitution is a sword over our heads or if education is a sword over our heads. Either way, the ignorance is remarkable.

The writers of our constitution knew that a quality education was the key to economic prosperity. Sadly, our legislators and many of the posters on this site believe that the elimination of corporate taxes and the de-funding of education, public safety, social services, etc. is the key to prosperity. They will lead Kansas into competition with Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

It is also interesting to see that many of the anti-tax posters on this site are also among the first to whine when the city fails to clear the snow off their residential street within hours of the first flake.

These are the folks who demand service and can't understand why they should be expected to pay.


ferrislives 8 years, 5 months ago

texburgh, the "sword" toe is referring to likely has to do with the teachers unions and school administrations. And if anyone thinks that any entity's budget within the state should stay the same while everything else in the state is going down the crapper, then you're not living in the real world.

All that this law suit will result in is more dollars in the lawyers pockets, and less money in the taxpayers pockets. We've all got to adjust our budgets until this time passes, and that should include the schools as well. If that's not what's stated in the constitution, then I believe that it should be changed for practicality purposes.

And please remember, the voters did pass two recent tax hikes locally for the schools, so it's not as if we are heartless. Just live within your means. Geesh, I learned that lessen as a child.

Jonathan Becker 8 years, 5 months ago


You make an excellent argument for more funding for the schools. When you were a small child, the lesson on spelling 'lesson' obviously did not take. Buehler? Buehler?

If you are unwilling to fund the education of children now, who is going to take care of you when you are old, infirm and unable to take care of yourself? Are you willing to permit an obviously poorly educated child be that adult whose job is to feed you, dress you, and care for you?

finance 8 years, 5 months ago

Health Care Moocher: you've obviously never read anything I've written in other posts relating to other recent articles. I can understand that--it must be very difficult for you.

Maybe you'll read this post, though, as you seem particularly worked up today. If my other posts were hard to understand, I'll be very simple this time and give you an easy template for understanding. Today's lesson is on spelling and punctuation. Just from your posts today, here's my daily dose of education aid designed personally for you:

"over educated". Should be hyphenated to read "over-educated".

"don’t". Should have an apostrophe to read "don't".

"freeking". Not being particularly enthusiastic about your choice of high-brow verbal imagery, it nonetheless should be spelled "freaking".

"loosers". Oh, the temptation here. Notwithstanding, it should be spelled "losers".

"enableing". It should read "enabling".

"elses". Again, it should contain an apostrophe and read "else's".

"pitty". Ah, again the temptation. But mercifully, I will only point out the correct spelling is "pity".

By now, I can't resist asking about your curious screen name. For such an apparently hopping mad anti-tax zealot, am I helping pay for your health care? It's the moocher part I'm really...

Have a nice day. Oh, we'll have a spelling test tomorrow--same time, same place.

anon1958 8 years, 5 months ago

"Slowponder when our schools care more about sports"

This is not the stance of the overwhelming number of teachers, it is instead the demand of the public at large.

I hope a few anti-educators have a stroke when the courts rule in favor of the schools AGAIN.

As far as changing the constitution, I doubt if most of the right wing fruitcakes that run the state legislature know enough about the constitution to realize it even could be changed.

rgh 8 years, 5 months ago


Ignoring the facts presented by kugrad in their first post, who I do NOT know, you are perpetuating the ugly stigma Kansas faces today as hillbilly rednecks. When the ultra conservative Sam Brownback becomes our Governor, Kansas will really face a depression rather than the recession we currently live.

Kansas has indeed given so much money back that people don't remember. We had money to put away for a rainy day and now we do not have it when we need it the worst. Schools have cut and cut and done so much more with less that eventually our social system and court system will see the effects in the coming few years. It won't be for the better either.

I would have gladly given back my tax break check to educate our kids today.

ferrislives 8 years, 5 months ago

Slowponder, regarding one misspelled word, thanks for being the hall monitor of the thread. I'm sure that you were really popular back in school as a kid (sarcasm alert). Get a life already.

And regarding who will take care of me when I'm old, that's a simple answer: myself and my family. I luckily have a large family, and we're always there for each other. If more people would depend less on the state and more on themselves and family and close friends, we wouldn't be in this predicament. But that is of course off-subject, which you already knew.

My point is that every single entity in the state should live within their means for the next couple of tough years. You don't see me suing the state because I have to pay higher taxes, or because I didn't get a raise. That's because I'm living in the real world, not some idealized "we need more money" world. If you care so much about it, then gather your like-minded friends and donate to schools. Otherwise, everyone should learn how to budget appropriately.

finance 8 years, 5 months ago

Health Care Moocher:

Oh, dear. So much work to be done to you, and for you, in one day. Will you never learn? Sorry, I don't have the time to accept your offer to continually correct your language deficiencies. But here's to the hope that you’ll lie awake tonight practicing the last lesson I’ve ever offer you (you guessed, correctly: another spelling lesson!). Against all odds, please remember:

It’s “latte”, not “late”.

It’s “gimme”, not “gimmie” – at least use your quaint little parlance more correctly, please.

And I have no idea what you mean by your reference to “whore”. Most of the time I have some notion of your underlying intent, but not this time--really, you should be more clear, rather than needing me to constantly lead you to better communication skills. Perhaps you're attempting to use "whore" as a verb, but if so yours is at least an awkward, if not inappropriately constructed, stab at what would be a complex imagery in hands other than your own.

And oh dear me again! It’s “welcome” (not “welcomed”), and tsk, tsk, it’s “grammar” (not “grammer”). And actually, the thought of you is nothing I would cherish. It would be better it YOU were to take a deep breath and come into the real world--yours is not the only reality show.

As far as getting into my head? You've gotten it exactly backward--again. You are far more worked up--I'm just enjoying my civic duty to make every day a little better through hard work and charity.

finance 8 years, 5 months ago

Postscript: Errata. Yes, I see my own pair of gaffes. Amusing. Chalk it up to tiring of the game and truly being done with it. Good night, all.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Finance- you have too much time on your hands if you get off correcting grammar. Maybe you should get out of the education business and go to work in the real world.

Have a good evening. I am going to bed so I can get up early and get to work. I need to make sure I make enough money so I can pay more taxes to pay for your education salary.

notajayhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

Jimo (Anonymous) says…

"The KS Constitution says that they don't have to “make do”. The schools get funded. Period. Discussion over."

Maybe you could point out where the dollar figure is mentioned in the state Constitution?

What? No?

I guess you're right - discussion over.

kugrad (Anonymous) says…

"the highest courts, which are non partisan"

You're really making a poor statement as to the quality of public education in Kansas with idiotic comments like that.

"This makes little sense as the only people who pay any income taxes are people who ARE getting by."

So you want to take money out of the pockets of the only people who have disposable income, and you think that will help the recession?

Just frikkin' brilliant.

" Besides, if you have paid any attention at the grocery store, you'd notice that they have indeed raised prices in hard economic times. My grocery bill hasn't dropped during the recession, it has gone up, and so has everyone else's."

You must shop at the only grocery store in the universe that doesn't run sales to generate business (which was HCM's point). And, um, for those whose mommy and daddy didn't pay for them to go to college, kugrad, many people's grocery bills have gone down - not because prices are lower, but because they don't have the money to spend. Of course, you're pretty generous with other people's money, so you probably think they should sacrifice a little more, right?

anon1958 (Anonymous) says…

"I hope a few anti-educators have a stroke when the courts rule in favor of the schools AGAIN."

Ah, yes, the mantra of the deluded liberal Democrats, who don't have the intelligence to come up with any other possible solution than throwing money at the problem - anyone who thinks the money they've been given should have been spent more wisely must be against education.

Pretty pathetic.

notajayhawk 8 years, 5 months ago

JackRipper (Anonymous) says…

"when our schools care more about sports and kids graduating can't tell Iran from Iraq and know more about American Idol you have to wonder, is money really the issue and what is going to guarantee a reliable future generation?"

Wow, jack, I actually agree with you on the root of the problem being how the money is being spent. And oddly enough, the research backs that up.

ComradeRedRooster (Anonymous) says…

"The courts have interpreted the Kansas constitution in such a way that public education has a blank check. Funding education means just that, “education”."

Ding ding ding - winner!

It's always amusing to see all these so-called educated people touting the Constitution when they're standing there hat in hand, but somehow they always seem to skip over that first sentence in Article 6:

"1: Schools and related institutions and activities. The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools, educational institutions an d related activities which may be organized and changed in such manner as may be provided by law."

I must have missed the part where it says the legislature has to provide facilities for athletic teams, performing arts, etc.

And don't give us that cr*p about capital vs. operating budgets. All the money comes out of our pockets and goes to the schools. Maybe instead of having a new football field, they should find a way to get the kids to school and teach them to read.

anon1958 8 years, 5 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Notajayhawk- I agree with you that a huge part of the problem is the spending of the money. I have never heard a school district say they have enough money, they always want more and more and more.

If I was in the legislature I would fund education more but I would require more detailed public reporting and removing the sales tax exemption for schools on purchases. They would net to the same before but they would get more funding. It would be fun to see if they would complain about funding ever again.

Another problem with government, you have use your budget or you would get less next year. It creates alot of waste and allows poor management of the public money.

windex 8 years, 5 months ago

Moocher, no need to "pitty" me. I'm happy and prosperous (chances are I pay waaaay more in taxes than you.) Our adult children are the productive, contributing citizens we raised them to be (and they spell pretty well, too.) Many, if not most, of my family's opportunities in life have been the direct result of high-quality public education. That's why I am passionate about the subject.

kugrad 8 years, 5 months ago

notajayhawk, if you knew anything about the KS Supreme Court, which has been put in place in a state dominated by Republicans and which is not currently based on a partisan selection procedure, you would know that it is NOT a partisan body. It is easy for you to just say it is, but you are simply wrong and obviously don't know the first thing about this court.

Your other comments miss the point entirely, but then I'm not surprised. healthcaremooch babbled as follows "You have just shown you colors there finance and KUGrad. It is obvious you know, or think you know, what the book says but have zero clue which end of a screwdriver is the business end. While you are warm in your quaint little office, drinking your late, it warms my heart to get into your head far enough for you to start to see the light." As a matter of fact, I don't have an office, don't work at KU, and don't think knowing how to use a common tool makes one more 'real' or 'in touch' with reason and logic. How quaint, using the 'elitist' charge when rational argument fails. Moocher babbles on: "You see, it is the gimmie people that provide the tax abatements to attract corporations that pay taxes so you can sit in your little office at KU and look down your noses at the rest of us. The idiots pushing the buttons whore out the tax dollars, and then when time is up, the companies flip boogers on the city and move to the next town. Giving the same liberals the argument about corporate welfare, not paying taxes, etc." You just argued that 1. Liberals give tax abatements to companies "that pay taxes," and 2. that the companies don't pay taxes because they relocate. Illogical. Besides, "Liberals" have never controlled the State government; thus they have never had a chance to be in charge of handing out the abatements. Your argument is factually incorrect as well as logically unsound. In other words, its a stupid argument. You see, the corporations do stay here, they just don't pay their share of taxes. Once again I'll point out that I do not work at KU, although I did work to pay my way through KU and to pay off the student loans I took out to attend. I don't look down my nose at anyone, although apparently you look down your nose at people who are better educated than yourself and/or who work at KU. The moocher says "These companies pay taxes, which in turn, provide your employment so you can look down on the rest of us." You just argued that they leave town after their abatements and don't pay taxes. They also do not provide my employment, although it wouldn't help if they paid their share of taxes.

"Have a happy new year in the socialistic America you seem to embrace." Hmm, encouraging your elected officials to increase taxes to fund public schools is now "socialistic?" You really should get an education my friend.

SeaFox 8 years, 5 months ago

@Healthcare_Moocher "Look at it this way. If you were a grocery store and had trouble making payroll, would you raise the prices (Taxes) and run customers off, or would you have a sale (Reduce taxes) to generate revenue?"

If a grocery store is having trouble making payroll, it's in trouble as a business itself. This would mean the store is making ZERO profilt, as payroll is an expense that comes out of gross revenue before the profit margin. The solution would have to be to raise prices, otherwise the business is not going to make enough to cover it's own expenses. Lowering prices would increase traffic to the store, but they're now making less revenue for the goods they have. If a "sale" is required to get enough customers in the door to pay the bills, either the store is being grossly mismanaged (prices highly inflated beyond market rates/or expenses allowed to grow too much) or the business is failing due to circumstances beyond the owner's control (the economy).

The solutions are 1) replace the manager with someone more competent, 2) Increase funding by raising prices or from an outside source (bank loan, partnership, etc), or 3) close the business and liquidate the assets to pay existing debts.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 8 years, 5 months ago

The guy was right when he said, the first thing we do is kill all the lawyers. These leeches want to cause a raise in people's already too high taxes, that we can barely afford to pay now. Now they want to do it in the middle of a recession and budget crisis. There was a reason why the legislature made education cuts, we are out of money. To raise taxes now would further the recession, and increase the number of people out of work. Why not put a bounty on lawyers, since their only function in life is to screw other people. Thank you, Lynn

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Lynn731- I disagree with your comments. It is easy to raise taxes to give more to education. Here is how-

  1. Eliminate the sales tax exemption for school purchases

  2. Increase th esales tax charged for entertainment and sporting events

Then give the money to education, they should net to the same level as before. You have given them more more funding but required then to spend also but schools never complain about how THEY spend the money, just that they want more.

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