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Archive for Monday, June 4, 2012

Plaintiff school districts, state battle in school finance hearing

June 4, 2012

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Kansas City, Kan. Schools Superintendent Cynthia Lane testifies Monday in school finance lawsuit.

Kansas City, Kan. Schools Superintendent Cynthia Lane testifies Monday in school finance lawsuit.

Hearing the school finance case are from left to right Judges Robert Fleming, Franklin Theis, and Jack Burr.

Hearing the school finance case are from left to right Judges Robert Fleming, Franklin Theis, and Jack Burr.

Attorney Arthur Chalmers, representing the state of Kansas, prepares charts for school finance hearing in Shawnee County Courthouse.

Attorney Arthur Chalmers, representing the state of Kansas, prepares charts for school finance hearing in Shawnee County Courthouse.

Attorneys John Robb and Alan Rupe, representing plaintiff school districts, prepare for opening of school finance hearing in Shawnee County Courthouse.

Attorneys John Robb and Alan Rupe, representing plaintiff school districts, prepare for opening of school finance hearing in Shawnee County Courthouse.

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— An attorney representing 54 school districts on Monday said the Legislature must meet its constitutional obligation and increase school funding.

"So we don't lose another generation of kids," Alan Rupe said to a three-judge panel in the school finance trial that got under way.

Rupe said the state has cut $511 million from schools in recent years, undoing progress that was made during a previous boost of court-ordered school funding. "The patient has flat-lined," he said.

But the attorney representing the state said the Legislature has done a good job financing schools through a difficult economic period. Arthur Chalmers also argued that sometimes money doesn't matter when it comes to student performance, and even if it does, the court shouldn't get in the Legislature's business.

Despite claims of inadequate funding by some school districts, Chalmers said Kansas students are improving. "Kids have not been left behind," he maintained.

Rupe and Chalmers outlined their cases before state district court judges Franklin Theis, Robert Fleming and Jack Burr. The trial includes hundreds of exhibits and is expected to last several weeks. The panel's decision will probably be appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court.

The first witness, Kansas City, Kan. School Superintendent Cynthia Lane said 87 percent of students in her district live in families who earn below the poverty level.

Lane said students were making improvements when school funding from the state increased from 2005-2008, but when the Great Recession-era cuts started, test scores started going down.

Lane said that schools are under numerous requirements from the federal government, Legislature and State Board of Education to make sure that students who graduate are ready for college or work. Is the money provided to schools enough to achieve that goal, she was asked. For a significant number of students, Lane said the answer was no.

"It keeps me up all night," Lane said of the fact that nearly four in 10 students in her district do not meet student proficiency standards.

She says the school district tries as hard as it can. "It's the morally right thing to do educate all students regardless of circumstances," she said.

Lane said school officials know what strategies work to help students, but the district just doesn't have the resources to implement them.

Earlier, Rupe said the state's education cuts have hurt students, especially minorities and those with special needs.

"We are leaving behind a large percentage of Kansas kids because the state of Kansas is not providing an adequate education," Rupe said.

Base state aid was supposed to hit $4,492 per student under state law, but has been cut $3,780 per student.

Meanwhile, Rupe said, schools continue to face increasing requirements and standards. "The actual costs have gone up while the resources have gone down," he said.

But Chalmers, the attorney representing the state, said the Legislature "has done a pretty good job" of funding public schools along with other state needs.

Chalmers also argued that the plaintiff school districts' under-funding argument provided a "disingenuous picture" because it didn't include local and federal dollars. He said an increased reliance on local property taxes for schools was a positive because local officials know better what is needed.

He also said studies are mixed on whether increasing funds to schools results in improved academic achievement.

"You can't assume that paying more money will result in increases in student achievement," he said.

Comments

Kate Rogge 2 years, 4 months ago

"The trial will be before a three-judge panel. The format is a change from the last time, when the lawsuit was heard and decided at the lower court by Judge Terry Bullock. Legislators created the new format specifically for school litigation. Hearing the case are Judges Franklin Theis, Robert Fleming and Jack Burr. This will be the first school funding case any of them have heard." I'm very skeptical of any new format created by Koch and ALEC funded legislators to judge school litigation. What ties do these three judges have to the Kochs?

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nativeson 2 years, 4 months ago

It is unfair to attack the credibility of the judges. They did not create this issue. The fact is that we now have a state government that appears unable to carry out their duties to manage the budget or manage redistricting. It is unfortunate that some of the most crucial issues that effect Kansans are left to the courts when it clearly the responsibilty of the legislature.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 4 months ago

When Walker in Wisconsin is retained today, maybe we will start to get the spending on the schools under control and funds allocated toward education, not unions and their agendas.

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Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years, 4 months ago

When Walker in Wisconsin is retained today, maybe we will start to get the spending on the schools under control and funds allocated toward education, not unions and their agendas.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

"not unions and their agendas."

What agendas are you referring to?

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chootspa 2 years, 4 months ago

You do realize that the Wisconsin unions had already agreed to every one of Walker's financial demands, don't you? Oh right. Don't let the facts get in the way of a good union bashing.

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WilburNether 2 years, 4 months ago

The selfishness and greed of the K-12 industry, if left unchecked, will bring financial ruin to state government.

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Pragmatron 2 years, 4 months ago

Yes, indeed. The Evil K-12 "Empire" must be driven from the State!

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chootspa 2 years, 4 months ago

The solution is obviously to privatize it into a voucher system that fuels shady private industries, or perhaps we need more testing - by private companies that also sell test preps. Because private industry is magic. Be sure to light your candles at the market altar and say a little prayer to Adam Smith.

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