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Archive for Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Attorneys delivering closing arguments in school finance lawsuit against state

Attorney Arthur Chalmers, representing the state, speaks during closing arguments in school finance lawsuit on Wednesday.

Attorney Arthur Chalmers, representing the state, speaks during closing arguments in school finance lawsuit on Wednesday.

August 29, 2012

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Attorney Alan Rupe, representing school districts suing the state over school funding, refers to an exhibit in closing arguments on Wednesday before a three-judge panel.

Attorney Alan Rupe, representing school districts suing the state over school funding, refers to an exhibit in closing arguments on Wednesday before a three-judge panel.

— CTopeka — Concerns about losing a generation of students and Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts were raised Wednesday before a three-judge panel considering whether the state is spending enough on public schools.

The wide-ranging views about school funding were voiced during three hours of closing arguments in a lawsuit brought by 54 school districts that alleges the state is violating the Kansas Constitution by not allocating enough funding to schools.

The judges are expected to issue a ruling within two or three months, and whatever decision they arrive at will likely be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court, which means the Legislature may not have to deal with a final ruling until the 2014 legislative session.

“The costs have gone up, the demands have gone up, and the funding has gone down. That is undisputed,” said Alan Rupe, the lead attorney for the school districts.

But Arthur Chalmers, the lead attorney representing the state, argued that cuts to schools have been insignificant, and that legislators were forced to make tough budgetary decisions when state revenues were plummeting during the recession. He told the judges there were no “monsters” in the Legislature who wanted to ruin public education.

Chalmers said increased funding sought by the school districts would have a “disastrous effect” on the economy.

But Judge Robert Fleming asked Chalmers how could the panel ignore the recently enacted tax cuts while at the same time the Legislature failed to provide the amount of funding that studies have shown is needed for schools.

Chalmers said the judicial branch shouldn’t get involved in the budget and tax decisions of the Legislature and governor.

“That puts the court in the awkward position of acting like a super Legislature. I don’t think the court wants to do that,” he said.

During the last legislative session, Brownback, a Republican, and his GOP colleagues approved a tax law that will reduce individual income tax rates next year, merging the state’s three tax brackets into two and dropping the top rate to 4.9 percent from 6.45 percent. The law also exempts the owners of 191,000 partnerships, sole proprietorships and other businesses from income taxes.

Brownback said the record tax cuts will stimulate the economy, but critics say the reduced tax revenue will force deep cuts in education, social services and public safety. State fiscal analysts say the cuts will lead to budget shortfalls of $2.5 billion by 2018.

Meanwhile, schools are being short-changed by $511 million per year, or 16 percent of total funding, because of recent state cuts, Rupe said.

Those cuts “are affecting an entire generation of kids,” Rupe said. Of the impending tax cuts, Rupe said, the state is taking money from students “to appease somebody else.”

He said he was incredulous that Chalmers would call the recent budget cuts insignificant.

“That insignificant amount of money has caused massive cuts in programs,” Rupe said.

Judge Franklin Theis, the presiding judge of the panel, pressed Chalmers on how legislators arrived at their decisions on school funding and whether they considered the actual costs necessary to educate students.

Chalmers said it was a judgment call and that legislators had to balance many factors.

Under a previous state Supreme Court ruling, the Legislature approved a law that was supposed to increase base state aid per student to $4,492 in 2010. But funding cuts from 2009 to 2011 brought base state aid to its lowest level in years at $3,780 per student.

In testimony in June during a trial in the case, school officials said the cuts were preventing them from closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities.

But Chalmers argued that Kansans should be proud of the public education system. He said the state’s students rank high in national tests.

“We have a constitutional system that provides the opportunity for a suitable education,” he said.

And, he said, the Legislature still spends more than half of the state budget on public schools.

Comments

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

Judges have a legitimate role to play in ensuring the legislators live up to their constitutional obligations.

Mike1949 2 years, 3 months ago

I'm sorry, I went to school too! They taught us that the Judicial branch of government was to monitor and enforce the Constitution. So where did these attorneys go to school that taught them the Judicial system is not to get involved? I am going to tell you how this will end. Yes it will go to the state supreme court. Yes, the state is going to loose again just like last time unless Brownback can replace some judges. Yes the state is going to spend huge amount of money defending a lost cause and these attorneys for the state will be laughing all the way to the bank on our (the tax payer) dime. Thank you Republicans! I better end this before I say something that will get me kicked off!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 3 months ago

This is not a political issue. This has everything to do with poor management of tax dollars and whiney unions

Thomas Bryce 2 years, 3 months ago

If Brownback has his way, The judges will be replaced by his appointees.

KSManimal 2 years, 3 months ago

"Meanwhile, attorneys representing the state have argued the judges shouldn't get involved in the Legislature's business of appropriating funds for schools."

Apparently, these attorneys don't comprehend that it is the role of the judicial branch to examine legislation for constitutionality.

Thomas Bryce 2 years, 3 months ago

Don't they cover that in Law School? Where did they get their Law degree, Devry?

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe they are home schooled lawyers... I want to see their lawyer credentials just as bad as the Birthers want to see both certificates...

rtwngr 2 years, 3 months ago

Apparently you don't comprehend that the legislature acted constitutionally. Just like Obamacare, constitutionality and good legislation are not synonymous. Just because you think it's bad law doesn't mean it us unconstituional.

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

The legislature failed to fund the educational system at the levels their own studies concluded would be "suitable", and the judicial branch ruled against them.

How on earth is not living up to their constitutional obligations constitutional?

Thomas Bryce 2 years, 3 months ago

Apparently these lawyers, and those that hired them, believe Biblical Law trumps Constitutional Law. They only answer to God, not Judges.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

Even Jesus said "render unto Ceasar what is Ceasar's..." taxes for public education, highways, social services, employee costs, etc belong to Ceasar. These guys are hypocrites who pray for the end of days while hoarding gold for Baal.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

You can't hate government and love public education. The GOP hates government. The GOP hates taxes. The GOP hates women. The GOP fears an educated electorate. The GOP fears minorities. The GOP has a lot in common with the Taliban.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

Maybe the governor should retake arithmetic, American government and basic science. His Arthur Laffer fantasies about taxes will ruin our great state. Then, he will blame Obama and the evil democrats, ie the boogey men...wait and see.

heygary 2 years, 3 months ago

Get your heads out of ... the sand! If you check out the few states in this country which have balanced budgets and growing economies you will see they have taken the path Governor Brownback is taking. If you examine the states which are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, you will see that they have stayed on the course you espouse.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

I don't know what you are smoking, heygary, but Brownback's tax plan will bankrupt the state in less than two years AND will massively shift the tax burden toward both me and you and everyone else who is not a multimillionaire.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 3 months ago

You know that is crap. Republicans very much support a performanced based education system, where you have the ability to retain the best and get rid of the rest. How dare the left paint the conservatives with that broad brush. You see, many of us have to perform to retain our positions and climb the ladder. Many in the education system hide behind tenure and the unions. The unions are very much into their own survival and not the very ones they represent. No one is against quality benefit packages for those who deserve it, but many are against carrying many lazy or tenured teachers for the strength of the union. It is pretty sad just how awful our education system has become. Administrators have become politicians, dollars are allocated to facilities, salary, and benefits packages. Our children are now walking to school while we bus vagrents and able bodied men all over this town. To hell with the children as long as the dollars keep flowing. I will bet you could take a dozen farmers, put them in charge, and in a very short time the education system would not only be functional, but become something that both parties would boast about.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

You make me laugh. Then I realize you're serious, and I weep for the future.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 3 months ago

There is a good reason you don't have anything, and never will.

jhawk926 2 years, 3 months ago

Mike 1949 has it close. The state will lose, it will go to the supreme court. Meanwhile, Brownback and his buddies will pass a new school finance bill this next legislative session. Thus the supreme court will throw out the case because the funding won't be the same as it was when the case was filed. What does all this mean??? The state and some schools are both spending time and money on something that won't be solved, and the attorneys will be laughing to the bank.

JackMcKee 2 years, 3 months ago

I sure hope Sammy has a backup plan for state finances. When this decision comes down the state is going to be bankrupt a lot faster that anyone predicted.

Grump 2 years, 3 months ago

Brownback and the legislature are simply going to ignore any order by the court. The best the court will be able to do is shut down the schools (to the extent that the state Treasurer and local school districts pay attention to the court.)

jafs 2 years, 3 months ago

If the legislature and executive branches simply ignore the SC, we have what I believe is called a "Constitutional crisis".

gbulldog 2 years, 3 months ago

Why do we have so many school districts? The greatest generation was raised on one Superintendent per one county. Now we have multile supertendents per county. The educational professions appear to have no clue about "overhead" so they gang up. hire lawyers and sue. Sound to me like a bunch of "Sacred Cows" trying to protect their turf. And the product they are producing, our kid's education, is falling behind other countries.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

Actually, there were far more school districts in Kansas several decades ago. We've already been through one round of consolidations which is why we have "unified" school districts. I agree that one district per county should be our goal, but to be credible you need to know what you are talking about. Otherwise, people will assume you vote republican out of ignorance and fear, rather than democratic out of knowledge and hope and compassion.

oldbaldguy 2 years, 3 months ago

I am not usually into conspiracies, but it seems to me this is a step towards eliminating public schools by the Republicans in Kansas. I hope I am wrong.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 3 months ago

The joker is the perfect avatar for you. A little humor with a lot of crazy.

Larry Sturm 2 years, 3 months ago

Tax cuts to the Koch brothers, Wal-mart and a few others of the top 2% and cutting school funding, social services and public services. That is the way to make this country go down the tube.

Carol Bowen 2 years, 3 months ago

"Chalmers said the judicial branch shouldn’t get involved in the budget and tax decisions of the Legislature and governor."

I can't get past the arrogance. That attitude probably did not set well with the judges. There are better ways to respond to the question.

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