Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Conservatives preparing constitutional amendment to thwart school finance ruling

February 4, 2013


— Legislators on Monday peppered staff with questions about education funding as they moved toward a showdown with the courts over school finance litigation.

Conservative Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned a recent order by a three-judge panel to increase public school funding by $440 million. The judges ruled that the Legislature had failed its constitutional duty to provide suitable funding for schools.

But Judiciary Chairman Jeff King, R-Independence, is pushing back at the decision.

He said the committee next week would hold hearings on a proposed constitutional amendment that is meant to thwart judicial review of school funding. The proposal would declare that the Legislature has exclusive authority over state funding of schools.

During a committee review of school finance litigation, state Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, said the recent court ruling provided no evidence that increased school funding will increase student performance.

"Where is the hard data?" he asked.

Conservatives also lambasted a cost study done by the consulting firm Augenblick and Myers that was the basis for a 2005 Kansas Supreme Court decision that ordered more funding.

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said the Augenblick and Myers study was "basically a task force" that visited school districts throughout the state and asked officials "for a wish list."

"The Augenblick and Myers study became a very subjective view of what certain people thought should be required for funding education," she said.

But Democrats said the study had been ordered by the Legislature and was later updated by the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit to get at the actual costs of meeting state standards for school accreditation.

Under the current lawsuit, the three-judge panel has ordered that base state aid per pupil, which is $3,838, must be increased to $4,492. The state has appealed the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

Do these folks really think that trashing the public school system is going to be popular thing to do? How far will they overreach before the backlash smacks them upside the head?

sciencegeek 1 year, 10 months ago

jabotb-- They don't care if it's popular; they're "on a mission from god" aka the Koch brothers. As to backlash, that would require voters who are actually paying attention and willing to vote them out, and past history says they have nothing to worry about there.

"We have met the enemy and they are us."

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, they are rather extreme in their narcissism, but many of their mostly ill-informed supporters likely live in communities whose derive much of their identity through their local schools. Funding will have to be reduced even more dramatically than it has been once the income tax is fully eliminated, and that's what will hit home with even the most diehard Republican voter.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

They've been doing the prep work for years. Look at all of Dave Koch's posts here. They're generally, "Schools are too expensive and they're no good, anyway." Then he barfs numbers in the hopes that nobody has the skills to interpret them or looks up exactly where those supposedly superior states place in the rankings.

But outright intentionally underfunding the schools? That's gonna be a hard sell, even in the most conservative areas of the state.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

They have cared. Otherwise, they wouldn't have amended the constitution to require school funding in the first place.

nyprphd 1 year, 10 months ago

It's as if Brownback & Co. wants to abolish public education. What's next...vouchers to parochial or Koch-run private schools? Why do Kansans vote for such policies?

kernal 1 year, 10 months ago

We're no where near Medieval times in Kansas - yet. If we were, there would be no schools and education would be only for royals and monks.

Tracy Rogers 1 year, 10 months ago

I would like to ask each legislator this question. If the courts had ruled that funding was adequate the way it is now, would you still be trying to change the Constitution?

Claire Williams 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes, those pesky courts, always making our governments uphold the laws we have in place. Who do they think they are?

fiddleback 1 year, 10 months ago

RC77, When your school funding is cut to the bone and beyond, allowing enough respite in the hacking for a return of some basic functions will of course not dramatically improve learning outcomes. Put another way, that's like withholding food from a starving person because they won't be able to run a marathon anytime soon. What a crock.

elliottaw 1 year, 10 months ago

however there is research that shows that smaller class size, fully funded schools, do have a positive outcome on student performance.

Tracy Rogers 1 year, 10 months ago

Exactly! If legislators gave a crap about education, they would pass a bill stating that classes will only have "x" number of students. Whether that number is 20 or 18 or whatever. Then they would fund what it takes to hire the appropriate number of teachers to meet that requirement.

jimmyjms 1 year, 10 months ago

Er, rockchalk1977, you're quoting a quote, not a fact or a finding.

It's no wonder you hate education, given that it obviously hasn't played much of a role in your life.

Alyosha 1 year, 10 months ago

Who's arguing for throwing money away?

Also, can you provide evidence that anyone at all believes that "all our problems can be cured (sic)" by money?

I recall no one saying that the solution to the problem is to throw money away. Rather, money is to be used for teaching materials, salaries, and the materials of education.

Lastly, do you assert that education and the mandate of the Kansas constitution can be met with no money?

Lisa Medsker 1 year, 10 months ago

I would love it if the money I worked for was being "thrown away" on silly things like education, instead of very important things, like lining the pockets of some rich guy.

question4u 1 year, 10 months ago

Kansas needs to be a little more original and quit taking pages from the books of other nations. Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi has already made an end run around justice by placing himself above the authority of the judicial branch of government in Egypt. Can't Kansas be a bit more imaginative than to model itself on a Middle Eastern dictatorship? It's clear that a lot of Kansans don't have much use for American values, but why not put some effort into alternatives rather than just copying other nations that ignore justice?

George_Braziller 1 year, 10 months ago

The conservative faction of the Legislature would love to just do away with the Judicial branch so they wouldn't have to be bothered with the pesky checks and balances of a three branch governmental system.

question4u 1 year, 10 months ago

It's great to see the expert opinions of those who think that funding has no affect on the quality of education. They need to make their opinions felt in Washington. After all, the federal government will be able to save a lot by cutting funding to Annapolis, West Point, and the Air Force Academy. Budgets for all of the training programs at Fort Riley can obviously be cut as well, because funding has no affect on the quality of education. The nation will be just as safe under graduates from the new leaner and meaner slashed-budget military academies. After all, experts posting here seem willing to virtually guarantee it. Logic has nothing to do with it.

Silly_me 1 year, 10 months ago

What irritates me about this is that some of the most vocal opponents to school funding had no problems with the system when their kids were in the Lawrence schools and taking advantage of all of the programs offered. We can be like California that has no art and music classes if that is what they want. When I bring that up, they don't say much.

KSManimal 1 year, 10 months ago

What needs to happen is for every school district in the state to simply give the wing-nuts just what they're willing to pay for: three R's and nothing else.

No arts, music, or extra-curricular activities. Yes, that means no high school football. Provide only what is absolutely required by law, and not one bit more. See how fast these yahoos get voted out of office.

Thomas Bryce 1 year, 10 months ago

Yes I read that article. By the way, this Is Kansas Not DC. Our students are trying to get what the courts agreed was suitable funding. The amount recommended(by The Legislature's OWN Researchers) is $4,492 per student, No where close to 30K. Aside from Hating The Obamas, what Point are you trying to make?

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

I thought Michelle Rhee came and fixed all the DC schools by providing exactly the sorts of reforms conservatives have clamored for? Closing schools, firing teachers, overemphasizing high stakes test scores. You mean it didn't fix the problems, which are more closely associated with poverty than any other factor? You don't say!

Armored_One 1 year, 10 months ago

Robbing Peter to pay Paul isn't really a good idea when it comes to education.

"Do we give our teachers, who have to put up with more crap than most anyone else working in the public sector, a raise, or do we upgrade the heating and cooling system?"

"Do we increase the variety of foods we provide for meals, or do we replace inefficient windows and door seals to attempt to save some money?"

"Do we update our textbooks or replace the roof?"

It's not the per student funding that needs to change. Overcrowded classrooms are proven to affect teacher effectiveness, let alone student productivity. Highering more teachers, finding a way to make the schools themselves more efficient, like new windows or solar technology to cut down the energy consumption.

There are multiple ways to make the whole system run more correctly, but no one wants to actually work on it. Either punish them with less money or waste money by increasing funding.

Fix what is actually broken. But that would require the unions AND the legislature to stop pointing fingers and work together like responsible adults. Most of the time, this bull hockey starts with the legislature scolding the unions for crap they have little control over, but oh well.

No adults are involved in finding the solutions, so what is the point of offering solutions?

Greg Cooper 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm really sorry, and I agree with much you have said, but the issue at hand has nothing to do with the condition of the buildings in which teachers and students labor.

You see, the "per-pupil" aid in question is for the actual personnel, materials and activities of education. The building issues you lament--and, rightly so, in so many cases--are questions of local property taxes and the amount each district allocates to its educational facilities.

I'm only glad the state has so little control over the actual buildings and physical plants in which we educate our kids, else there would be, with the current Kansas regime, huge questions like, "Why do we have to have all these fine buiildings? Do the children not realize how fortunate they are to have a roof over their heads? What was good enough for Grandpa is certainly good enough for these kids."

fiddleback 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm wondering if another state has already created a precedent with this particular issue. These Kansas conservatives are usually just aping terrible things passed in even worse states like Arizona.

Or could it be that excising checks and balances from a piece of the constitution is a pure and original Kansas travesty? I really hope it's not, because just when you thought it couldn't get worse than the state being best known for creationism and Fred Phelps, this would be a new low...

And Brownie probably hasn't thought too much about how many businesses want to move to a state where the schools are rationed like POW camps. Good luck with that fantasy about rapid growth, Sam. We just wish you were proving the obvious limits of supply-side dogma somewhere else instead of a state that formerly had a proud tradition of moderate and sane governance...

Bike_lover 1 year, 10 months ago

It's beyond me how they think they'll attract good jobs when they gut the public education system. Come to Kansas -- ignorant workforce?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

These are CONSERVATIVES not republicans and certainly not fiscally responsible republicans.

Try Rt Wing Libertarian Neocon Fundamentalist Tea Party for Economic Terrorism !!!!

Patricia Davis 1 year, 10 months ago

I am a bit amused that all of the "republicans" who voted for Sam are now appalled about what his true mission is. Elections have consequences.Welcome to Brownbackistan.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 10 months ago

Guess voters should pay attention to how their perform after being a elected. Sam has never been a republican.

Why did voters vote in a man who has been tax dollar mooching for so many years?

geekin_topekan 1 year, 10 months ago

What I find to be sad is all of this sound reasoning is wasted outside the confines of, oh say Haskell to Iowa, 6th to 23rd. Everywhere else in the state is either duped by the Jesus myth or totally indifferent to the power of their vote, which is slowly being engineered into oblivion anyway, so the less they know (cuts to ed. funding), the better according to the new White Republic of Kansas.

Fred Mertz 1 year, 10 months ago

So who is going to dethrone King Sam in the next election? The field of challengers seem empty. If the Ds don't find a strong candidate you will have 4 more years of this this.

jafs 1 year, 10 months ago

I predict that a moderate R, if one runs against him in the primaries, might have a chance of unseating him.

A D has far less of that chance, in my view.

It's a good reason to register R and vote in the R primaries for a more moderate candidate.

sciencegeek 1 year, 10 months ago

She's been attacked and vilified so much already as the only thinking member of the cabinet. Why would she open herself up to the full fury of the millionaire attack machine?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 10 months ago

I'm not sure about that. I think that within the Republican Party, the far right has a slight edge in numbers, and especially an edge in turning their voters out in primary elections, over moderate Republicans.

What's going to have to change is that moderate Republicans are going to have to stop automatically voting for whoever the Republican nominee is in the general election. Once that happens, the combination of moderate Republicans, Democrats and Independents can easily outvote the far right of the Republican Party.

jafs 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe, but I think that's less likely than what I propose.

If D and I registered R, and voted in the primaries, perhaps the more moderate R would win them.

Then, also, of course, there's the problem that only about 1/2 of eligible voters in KS vote at all - I wonder how their participation might change the outcomes.

sciencegeek 1 year, 10 months ago

A moderat R doesn't have a chance as long as the radicals with deep pockets are willing to spend like mad to lie like mad to defeat them. Remember the last primary?

A D doesn't have a chance because the voters have been told and believe that "D" stands for Devil. And they willingly drink the koolaid. Besides, there's only about 25 Ds left in the state.

If you hadn't noticed, a bill has been introduced to limit the time when people can change their party affiliation, yet another way to control elections, i.e. "cheat".

Kansas has been bought and paid for. And the deluded ones in power think this will attract business?

msezdsit 1 year, 10 months ago

These people are just scary. Now that they have begun their assault on the constitution by attacking the most vulnerable people in our society, our children, no one is safe. They will continue to rewrite the constitution to their liking. People of kansas, do you feel that great sucking feeling on our way to the bottom?

Not even the judges or the courts will be able to stop them.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 10 months ago

Here's a stupid idea. If the legislature doesn't like task forces, then invite the superintendents and board presidents of every school district in Kansas to testify before the legislature.

William Weissbeck 1 year, 10 months ago

Seeing some of the other posts, true moderates may have to take the leap and form a third party. Democrats may have to divert their campaign funding to the third party and wait it out. Right now the far right can out gun anyone else. Parity will be impossible. But if the moderates publicly bolt the party and run a continuous campaign of opposition in the press - then come election time, some of this will stick. Moderates need to understand that election season is too late in time to convince voters. There has to be an open revolt and an announcement that they have no intention of returning to the current GOP or trying to govern with them.

nyprphd 1 year, 10 months ago

A good plan that deserves good luck.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 10 months ago

Brownback and congress attacking the judicial system for doing what they are supposed to do be a balance in the government of the state of Kansas. This is the worst state government we have ever had.

Tracy Rogers 1 year, 10 months ago

And we all just sit back and let it happen. How pathetic is that?

cantbelievemyeyes 1 year, 10 months ago

Hmmm, first Brownback wanted to get rid of SRS and go to a 'Faith based initiative". Then he is trying to get rid of any tax breaks for middle and lower class to fund the tax breaks he gave to the rich last year. Now he is trying to cut education even more. Is it to try to force more people to 'homeschool' or keep the masses 'dumb and under his thumb' or both???

fiddleback 1 year, 10 months ago

So even in the worst case scenario that voters pass the amendment, it arguably wouldn't prevent these suits about funding from being filed against the legislature. In fact, the plaintiffs' attorney in the current suit points out that the wording of the amendment itself, even if it passes, may end up being rejected by the Kansas Supreme Court...

What an idiotic paradox: the legislature wants to eliminate judicial review but can't prohibit these suits from being filed. If they can't stop citizens from suing, how can they stop the courts from reviewing and ruling with the force of law? They spend all this energy trying to castrate the "activist courts," and yet the only solution to meet their fascistic ends would be to prohibit any legal action whatsoever on this subject. And if they considered doing that, maybe it would dawn on a few of them that they're truly off the deep end...but not enough to make a difference. And here I used to think remarks about a budding dictatorship were a bit hyperbolic...

jafs 1 year, 10 months ago

Well, on the federal level, constitutional amendments can overturn SC decisions.

If it's the same on the state level, then they could pass an amendment that would render these things out of the courts' hands, by simply removing the word "suitable" from the provision for education funding.

Then, as long as they give any money at all to the educational system, there's no constitutional issue.

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