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Archive for Friday, November 18, 2011

Attorney for school districts says Brownback education finance plan would make matters worse

November 18, 2011

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Gov. Sam Brownback says he wants to overhaul the public school finance system to avoid lengthy litigation that has surrounded the major funding function of state government.

“I am tired, and I don’t think it is effective that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature,” Brownback has said.

“Here is a plan that we think can address our needs and not go through litigation. It doesn’t engage the public when you do these things through litigation. You engage the public when you engage the Legislature,” he said.

But school districts suing the state over school finance say Brownback’s plan will guarantee more litigation.

“I’m not seeing Governor Brownback’s plan as fixing anything,” said Newton attorney John Robb, who represents a coalition of plaintiff school districts. “As a matter of fact, I think it makes it worse. It will not stop the lawsuit.”

Although not officially released, Brownback’s school finance plan has been trotted out before groups of education officials in recent weeks by the governor’s policy director, Landon Fulmer.

Brownback’s plan is expected to give local governments more control in raising local taxes for schools.

Robb and other school finance advocates see this as worsening inequalities in school funding between rich and poor districts, a situation that Kansas courts have ruled against in the past.

“I don’t understand why we are replowing this field,” Robb said.

The school districts’ lawsuit contends the Legislature has failed to provide the funding it promised to settle a 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ruling that found the system for funding schools unconstitutional.

Legislators responded to the court ruling by approving new funding to raise the base state aid for all students and then targeting funds for students who were deemed at risk of failing. But legislators have taken back much of that funding over the past three years as state revenues declined during the recession.

The state’s base state aid to public schools is now $3,780 per student, the lowest level since the 1999-2000 school. In the 2008-09 school year, it was $4,400 per pupil. The cut in funding has resulted in fewer teachers and more crowded classrooms.

Robb said that contrary to Brownback’s contention, the formula used to divvy up school funding is fine. It is the failure to adequately fund the formula that is causing problems, he said.

“You can build the best car on the planet, but if you don’t put gas in it, it’s not going anywhere,” Robb said.

The case is set to go to trial in June 2012.

Comments

George Lippencott 2 years, 5 months ago

Well, whatever else it might do it will make a lot of work for lawyers and a lot of costs for taxpayers.

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kugrad 2 years, 5 months ago

Seriously kansanjayhawk? You really think Gandalf is actually saying Brownback serves the devil? This isn't about fairy tales. It isn't about unions. In fact, no union gets a single dollar from the great State of Kansas. The teacher's union, which is probably the target of your misguided statement, gets no money from the state. The only money they get is from their members,. That is not State money, it is earned dollars that belong to private individuals who can do what they want with their earnings. The union dues are not determined in any way by flucuations in school funding. There is no union 'blood-sucking on the public treasury,' that is rubbish. It is false. It isn't true. It doesn't happen. It hasn't happened. It isn't happening. Your governor has no common sense to inject into education issues as he has just reintroduced a budgetary system already ruled unconstitutional by the Kansas courts not 2 decades ago. This state has never been run by Democrats in modern history. You need to get a grasp on the realities here in Kansas.

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kansanjayhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Here we go again-- now the governor serves the "devil" --rubbish ! The reality is that the Governor is trying to get our state back on track after 8 long years in the liberal Democrat wilderness! Brownback is trying to reform our tax structure to bring back good high paying jobs and reduce the tax burden on ordinary Kansans! The governor is also trying to reduce the influence of the public sector unions that are becoming blood-suckers on the public treasury! We need more common-sense conservative leaders like Brownback and we need them to stick to their guns even if they are called names and accused of serving the devil!

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citizen1 2 years, 5 months ago

So you assume a negative intent without really knowing his intent.

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citizen1 2 years, 5 months ago

Ksmanimal, is the intention of Gov. Brownback for good or for bad?

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wood451 2 years, 5 months ago

I'll bet this conversation would take a very different tone if we couldn't hide behind anonymous screen names.

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KSManimal 2 years, 5 months ago

Brownback's real motive for changing the school finance formula has but ONE purpose: to render the current litigation moot.

See, brownie knows full well that his proposal would never hold up in court; but he doesn't care. The point is to change the formula in a way to free up more state money for tax cuts for Koch & Co.

By changing the formula, he guarantees that when (not if, but when) the court rules in favor of the plaintiff in the current case; the court will also say "however, since the formula and funding levels you sued over no longer exist; your case is mute. You'll have to file another suit over the new formula and funding levels."

Of course, to file suit the plaintiffs must give the legislature six months advance notice (as per their recent suit-suppression law). This gives the legislature time to dream up ways to change the formula AGAIN, and again, and again,....each time rendering the pending lawsuit moot - so they never have to sack up and actually uphold the state constitution.

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citizen1 2 years, 5 months ago

I thought all of those garden classes & gardens they planted was going to help the schools. I still believe there is waste to be culled from our educational system.

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citizen1 2 years, 5 months ago

Has anyone ever heard the school districts, their attorneys, or the unions say they had too much money. What ever they get is never enough.

Hey, do more with less like the test of us.

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tomatogrower 2 years, 5 months ago

Didn't one of Brownback's flunkies once say the only rich people send their kids to college? So apparently only rich districts want to educate their younger kids too. The man is openly against people without enough money to do him any favors, like make him rich and powerful. Good little back stabbing Christian. I would think Christians would reject these phonies.

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lunacydetector 2 years, 5 months ago

when is enough enough for our schools?

so tired of the school district stealing my hard earned dollars on their spare no expense projects of waste bs.

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kugrad 2 years, 5 months ago

This plan reveals Brownback's utter incompetence. He completely ignores the history of school finance in Kansas, particularly the just basis of the successful lawsuit of the early 90's. The argument behind this lawsuit was that school funding is supposed to provide equal educational opportunity across the state. The litigants successfully showed that allowing local districts to raise property taxes to provide additional funds for schools in their areas results in unequal educational opportunity for students. Those in affluent areas enjoy better and increased opportunities compared to those in less-affluent areas. The state should be ensuring equal opportunity and must address funding to make it so. This argument was upheld in court. It is also, in my opinion, quite obviously true. In the present, Brownback proposes, in a nutshell, the same exact inequitable process that was held to violate the Kansas Constitution! In my view, this is sheer incompetence. He will undoubtedly trot out the old canard of "activist judges" and "judges trying to do the legislature's job" by forcing the legislature to comply with the law (which requires the allocation of monies). This is just a smokescreen to hide the real issues. The legislature is failing to do their constitutional duty to provide for a quality education to Kansas students in good times and bad. They are trying to serve two masters- their political contributors and Kansans they are supposed to represent. They can't balance this because the two are at odds, so they are choosing their campaign contributors over what is good for Kansas students. Neglecting to properly fund schools, they seek a way out. Well Mr. Brownback, I'm sorry you're tired. I'm tired too. Tired of the Kansas legislature ignoring court orders to fix the school finance system. Tired of your incompetent performance as governor, if you can call running for Vice President governing. You are guaranteeing a lawsuit here. Your talk about hoping to avoid one rings hollow when you propose essentially the same system that was struck down in court as your "new" policy idea. I guess you think we are really that stupid.

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weeslicket 2 years, 5 months ago

brownback: “I am tired, " public: "please re-tire"

brownback: "I don’t think it is effective that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature ... Here is a plan that we think can address our needs and not go through litigation." public: the legislature came up with the funding plan(s). the court ruled on the plan(s), including findings of fact regarding the constitutional definition of "suitable". the legislature agreed to follow its own constitutional mandate (albeit at a significantly reduced amount than the constitutional defition of suitable). and then the legislature promptly re-negged on their legislative and constitutional duties. lovely.

brownback: "It doesn’t engage the public when you do these things through litigation. You engage the public when you engage the Legislature." public: even for the governor, this is some seriously whacky talk.

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weeslicket 2 years, 5 months ago

brownback: “I am tired, " public: "please re-tire"

brownback: "I don’t think it is effective that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature ... Here is a plan that we think can address our needs and not go through litigation." public: the legislature came up with the funding plan(s). the court ruled on the plan(s), including findings of fact regarding the constitutional definition of "suitable". the legislature agreed to follow its own constitutional mandate (albeit at a significantly reduced amount than the constitutional defition of suitable). and then the legislature promptly re-negged on their legislative and constitutional duties. lovely.

brownback: "It doesn’t engage the public when you do these things through litigation. You engage the public when you engage the Legislature." public: even for the governor, this is some seriously whacky talk.

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kujayhawk7476 2 years, 5 months ago

So, the dictatorial governor believes that the legislature, who is currently in violation of the judge's previous ruling on school finance and funding levels, is the proper body to resolve the problem? Go figure.

The judge in that case should arrest every member of the legislature, plus the governor, for contempt of court, place them all in a local gymnasium under 24/7 guard and leave them there until they resolve how to properly fund schools per his judicial decree.

Remember, next November, send them all home, all 537 members in Washington and all in Kansas! Send the cheaters, scammers, and bums home!!

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KS 2 years, 5 months ago

Coming from an attorney that is paid to sue, what else could you expect? Gotta keep those jobs in Kansas, including attorneys.

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JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 5 months ago

This is just part of the Brownback "Great Leap Backward." He doesn't care about public education because his kids went to private schools. He smiles for the cameras a lot, but doesn't care about anyone whose annual income is less than $1 million per year. Despite claiming to be a Christian, at every turn he tries to reduce state funding for critical social services. He is heartless and souless. If the Browback plan goes through, at least Lawrence is a wealthy enough community to be able to raise sales taxes and property taxes. Many small communities around the state can't levy sales taxes as they don't have retail establishments in town. How will they fare? I guess it doesn't matter as they will all live their lives and then die years and years from now having only ever voted for the Republican candidates...what's the matter with Kansas???

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Jimo 2 years, 5 months ago

These days there just seems to be a fundamental difference in how the political parties think about public issues.

Dems identify a problem and then craft specific policy proposals to address that problem. Sure, virtually every proposal assumes a starring role for gov't but the proposals do actually have substance that can be evaluated by decisionmakers and voters. At the end of the day, not only may someone come up with a conclusion that proposal Z will have effects 1, 2, and 3 on the economy but likely fail to achieve effect 4, but proponents actually seek out this type of critique.

Repubs identify an abstract goal, such as lowering taxes on the "job creators" and then translate that goal into a fixed proposal, such as eliminate state income taxes or cut spending by X dollars. There's no actual analysis of precisely what the actual effects of these proposals will be or whether the X dollars cut come from Program 1 or Program 2. Things just get chopped without any idea where the affected citizens should turn (billionaires will come forward to create jobs through investment - and if they don't? Ehhh....) This 'top down' approach is indifferent to substantive analysis because analysis is irrelevant to the purpose of the proposals, which is to push the abstract goal, which in turn in never--ever!--questioned but rather adhered to with an almost religious orthodoxy.

Only 2 generations back, this difference didn't exist like this. Dems had a strong wing that pushed abstract ideology, even at times in a messianic level ('we now know how to end poverty and will achieve its demise within a generation' - 1966). Repubs took some real pride in the intellectual foundations of policy and formed a movement to showcase the core of conservatism, its belief that change is oversold and that valuable, organically evolved virtues of the existing order were being destroyed. But a balance existed between ideology and practicality in both parties.

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edjayhawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Its too bad that of course Kansas requires 40% of voters in the last election to recall a Governor. Several states only require 15%. No wonder there has been decades of Republican dominance in Kansas.

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Bob_Keeshan 2 years, 5 months ago

Here's the plan.

First, change the school finance formula to "allow" local districts to raise sales and property taxes.

Second, send local districts less money from the state.

Third, use the "savings" from local districts being forced to raise sales and property taxes just to keep the lights on in their schools to eliminate the income tax.

End result -- record high sales taxes, record high property taxes, no income tax.

Who benefits? I hope the buffoons who slobber over Brownback are excited to pay MORE in taxes, not less, for the moral superiority they will gain from having no income tax.

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question4u 2 years, 5 months ago

Brownback: “Here is a plan that we think can address our needs and not go through litigation."

Public: Won't your plan to shift education funding to local districts make the problem of unequal funding worse and create even stronger grounds for litigation – and for the state to lose that litigation as it did before?

Brownback: Look, trust me here, Didn't I say that the state wouldn't lose funding from the NEA and the Mid-America Arts Alliance when I abolished the Kansas Arts Commission? Wait...I mean...didn't I say that the lost funding would be made up in private funds? Wait...scratch that...we're talking about school finance and litigation here. You can trust my judgment, after all I'm promising to lower your taxes.

Public: OK, but won't shifting the tax burden to local districts make our property taxes go way up to compensate for lost funding from the state level?

Brownback: Not necessarily. That's the beauty of the plan. Your district may opt not to raise property taxes and instead let its schools decline.

Public: OK, but isn't that likely to create even greater disparity between school districts and a greater chance of litigation?

Brownback: Look, you might as well buy into my plan. Do you really think logic will stop me from implementing it?

Public: Well, no.

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drs331 2 years, 5 months ago

“I am tired and I don’t think it is effective that the system and the money has been decided by the courts for the last 20 years instead of the Legislature,” Brownback has said.

Maybe I'm wrong, but at no point that I know of has the court ever made any funding decision for schools. Only the legislature does that. The court tells the legislature when the funding decision it made is at a level that does not satisfy the requirements of the Kansas Constitution. And then the legislature tries again.

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Hadley_says 2 years, 5 months ago

Someone should ask John Robb et al. how much they have profited/.gained from the previous litigation.

I'm not saying it is totally undeserved, but my point is, after profiting in magnificent sums in the amount of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the original litigation, he has little incentive to not sue once again, regardless of the issues involved.

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guavablues 2 years, 5 months ago

He talks about lowering taxes. All he is doing is shifting it to local taxes. Who does this help? Not the 99% but the 1%.

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George_Braziller 2 years, 5 months ago

No kidding. The Brownback administration manages to screw up anything it thinks it's going to "fix" and just ends up making the situation even worse.

“I’m not seeing Gov. Brownback’s plan as fixing anything,” said Newton attorney John Robb who represents a coalition of plaintiff school districts. “As a matter of fact, I think it makes it worse. It will not stop the lawsuit.”

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