Archive for Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kansas Senate committee OK’s plan to exclude courts from school finance

February 19, 2013


A Senate committee has endorsed a proposal to amend the Kansas Constitution to give only the Legislature the authority to determine funding for public schools, rather than the courts.

The voice vote Tuesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee sends the measure to the GOP-controlled Senate for debate. Republicans outnumber Democrats 32-8.

Supporters say changing the constitution would limit the power of the state’s judicial branch to review lawsuits over school funding.

A Shawnee County District Court ruled in January that the state’s system for school finance was unconstitutional. The court ordered legislators to increase spending by more than $440 million for the next school year.

Legislators want to put the constitutional amendment before voters in the August 2014 primary.


ksjayhawk74 5 years, 2 months ago

Yea, take THAT, teachers and students!!!

George_Braziller 5 years, 2 months ago

Have any of these people even read the Constitution? The Constitution is what dictates levels for school funding, not the courts. The courts just made a ruling based on what's written in the State Constitution. All they're trying to do is kill the messenger because they don't like the message. Even if this passes it doesn't change what's written in the Constitution regarding funding of education.

Pepe 5 years, 2 months ago

If I understand it correctly, they are trying to amend the constitution. Thus, if they are successful in this, it would change what is written in the Constitution re: education funding.

George_Braziller 5 years, 2 months ago

They want to amend the Constitution so (they think) they can have the final say on funding. That doesn't change what's written in the Constitution regarding what's required for funding education.

Pepe 5 years, 2 months ago

I get your point. However, as a practical matter, it would seem like (throwing out any separation of powers issues), the legislature would get control over school funding if they get this amendment. The constitution provides that "adequate" funding must be provided. As the law stands now, the Courts have the power to determine what is "adequate". If the constitution were amended like the legislature wants, it would seem like the legislature, not the courts, would be the final say-so on what is "adequate". In other words, if they get their way, wouldn't "adequate" be whatever the legislature says it is and there would be no judicial review? Thus, even though the "adequate" language would still be in the constitution, wouldn't it essentially be rendered toothless because the legislature would have the sole power to determine what is adequate?

BTW, I am 100% on your side in thinking that this amendement is an awful idea -- just trying to get clarification.

George_Braziller 5 years, 2 months ago

Bingo! If this passes it will eventually be challenged in the US Supreme Court.

Hudson Luce 5 years, 2 months ago

Here's the language: "(a) The legislature may levy a permanent tax for the use and benefit of state institutions of higher education and apportion among and appropriate the same to the several institutions, which levy, apportionment and appropriation shall continue until changed by statute. Further appropriation and other provision for finance of institutions of higher education may be made by the legislature. (b) The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. No tuition shall be charged for attendance at any public school to pupils required by law to attend such school, except such fees or supplemental charges as may be authorized by law. The legislature may authorize the state board of regents to establish tuition, fees and charges at institutions under its supervision. (c) No religious sect or sects shall control any part of the public educational funds."

The simplest fix is to remove the sentence "The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state." in section (b) resulting in this:

"(b) No tuition shall be charged for attendance at any public school to pupils required by law to attend such school, except such fees or supplemental charges as may be authorized by law. The legislature may authorize the state board of regents to establish tuition, fees and charges at institutions under its supervision."

Centerville 5 years, 2 months ago

But, but, if the taxpayers can't be expected to support Chief Justice Nuss' law firm, who will?

Gary Denning 5 years, 2 months ago

What? Justice Nuss' law firm didn't participate in the lawsuit over funding of schools.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 5 years, 2 months ago

That is fine. The Lawyers are Standing By. More legal fees to defend what is clearly Unconstitutional. Can we, as citizens of Kansas, demand to be reimbursed for all the legal fees spent to Defend the Ideology of the Brownback Administration? That IS MY TAX MONEY AND YOUR TAX MONEY THEY ARE WASTING! There should be a Malpractice Charge Brought against this Current Kansas Administration. Amateurs everyone of them.

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 2 months ago

Goodbye, checks and balances. They might as well stop teaching kids about them in school.

Andrew Dufour 5 years, 2 months ago

I sincerely believe this exercise will demonstrate the ineptitude of the KS legislature. The language they've placed in this amendment will not change the courts ruling. All the amendment says is that the legislature has the final say on funding education. The court did not say the opposite, the court simply said that as per the requirement that education be adequately funded, the legislature is underfunding schools. This amendment will have no effect on the ruling and the court will quickly inform the legislature of that fact when they're sued again. The fact is the legislature needed to remove the portion of the constitution that requires adequate funding but politically they knew they couldn't do that, so they tried this route and it won't work.

Pepe 5 years, 2 months ago

I understand your point, but isn't the point of this proposed amendment to give the legislature, not the courts, the ultimate say-so as to what constitutes "adequate funding"? In other words, even if there is no amendment or revocation of the "adequate funding" language in the constitution,wouldn't that language be essentially rendered meaningless if the legislature has the sole ability to determine what is "adequate"? In other words, if the legislature gets their way and this amendment passes, wouldn't "adequate" be whatever they say it is and the courts would not have the power to say otherwise?

BTW -- Don't get me wrong, I think this is a horrible idea and I am definitely against the idea of amending the constitution.

Andrew Dufour 5 years, 2 months ago

I'll need to go back and look at the actual language, but I'm relatively certain it doesn't say that the legislature gets to determine what is "adequate." rather it says the legislature gets to set funding for schools. The legislature already does that so that language is meaningless. Further, if the legislature is attempting to say it gets to interpret the law by way of a constitutional amendment, that too would be meaningless language. No matter how the legislature words the constitution the fact remains that the court interprets laws and determines if they fall within or without the constitution. The legislature cannot effectively say that the constitution says that everything we do is constitutional, that doesn't work.

gccs14r 5 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, this will make companies want to relocate here. Why, Kansas is fixin' ta be a gol-durned Utopia, I tell ya.

sciencegeek 5 years, 2 months ago

"... if somehow the voters in Kansas are duped into voting this into law (trust me the big monied conservatives will be filling the media with propaganda to ensure its passage)..."

That is the fundamental problem. Most of the people in Kansas are paying no attention whatsoever to what is going on in the Legislature. The only ones who show up to vote are the wingnut-Repubs, and they vote determine all outcomes in their primary. Which is another reason that they want the amendment on the ballot in August instead of November.

If you really want this state to throw off the absurdity of this Legislature and Brownback, you're going to have to wake up most of the population. Good luck with that.

fiddleback 5 years, 2 months ago

The legal illiteracy would be hilarious if it weren't so mortifyingly embarrassing...

So boys, just what is a constitution, if not a list of matters subject to checks and balances? Isn't everything appearing in the constitution inherently subject to judicial review? Are there any other examples of exclusive domains with no such checks?

Assuming there's no precedent, then this is exactly as stupid and heinous as it sounds, an assault on our greatest social contract. Why not just cross out the whole thing and scrawl, "Courts are hereby abolished; our junta will do whatever we feel like until it's finally so awful that even our semiliterate base feels compelled to kick us out...if we let them."

Between this and the bill about pre-emptively outlawing federal gun legislation, sounds like these boys are about ready to secede...I got to give it to them--they make Rick Perry seem like Stephen Hawking.

Bob Reinsch 5 years, 2 months ago

Substitute the phrase "school funding" with the phrase "criminal sentencing guideline" and see how ridiculous it sounds. My point is this - if the Legislators are prepared to change the state constitution to give themselves more power in this instance, what will come next? That document was written that way for a reason.

Hardhawk1 5 years, 2 months ago

The amendment will never pass the house with the 2/3 majority. It is not going to happen.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 2 months ago

Speaking of schools, why haven't I seen anything today from the local papers about House Bill 2306?

The KS Legislature has no qualms about getting the courts away from enforcing school funding, but then they have the audacity to legislate pseudo-science in classrooms.

Chris Golledge 5 years, 2 months ago

Wow, that's embarassing.

There is no evidence countering the theory that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and we are adding more of it to the atmosphere. So, the law would require teachers to produce something that doesn't exist. There is no controversy amongst scientists. Somehow their debate about whether the elephant is large, or very large, has been taken to mean there might not be an elephant.

asixbury 5 years, 2 months ago

Kansas...are you filled with a bunch of idiots? Or just sheeple who go with whatever the "right" person tells them? In this case, the "right" person is the governor since he claims to be a Christian. I have lived in Kansas my whole life and my attitude towards it has changed since moving to the eastern side. But I still keep being embarrassed by the rest of this backwards state. When people I meet from another state or country ask where I'm from, I don't like telling them Kansas. I really want to be proud of this state, but not sure how that will happen considering the nonsense the government keeps pulling.

Greg Cooper 5 years, 2 months ago

Again I repeat:

The legislature, years ago, determined the "adequate funding" needed to operate Kansas schools. It THEN proceded to ignore its own legislation by not funding as it said it shouild and would. Ergo, this suit is not about the legislature having the power to fund schools, because under that same constitution, it does, but about the fact that, under the Kansas Constitution, it passed a law doing exactly what it was supposed to do and DID NOT FOLLOW THE LEGISLATION. The legislature did in fact determine the "adequate funding" needed and broke the law by not doing what it enacted into law. SO, the Supreme Court said only that the legislature did not follow the constitution and needs to do so.

This constitutional bypass is unconstitutional because a state can not deny or usurp the checks and balances of its constitution. The suit is entirely unrelated to constitutional issues, but is based on a matter of one piece of legislation ignored and has nothing whatsoever to do with the checks and balances written into the constitution.

However, as noted above, this action"ll provide the attorneys appointed by Sam and the Gang to defend it hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars. I guess that's what Sam means by job creation.

katz 5 years, 2 months ago

So, if we destroy our schools and universities, let roads and bridges fall apart, and fail to provide basic necessities of life for people, then businesses will flock to Kansas?

skull 5 years, 2 months ago

Starving the rest of the government? Schools, universities (aka schools), roads, and welfare ARE pretty much the only responsibilities of the state.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

The word in the constitution is "suitable", not "adequate" - just a little correction.

All of the same arguments apply, though, as far as I can tell - courts have the job of interpreting the constitution, and legislatures can't simply remove that job through legislation. Imagine if Congress passed a law stating that the legislature has the only role in determining a "reasonable" search and seizure.

Larry Sturm 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't think that this will work because everybody has a right to a faie trial and it will go past the legislature to a court trial.

Larry Sturm 5 years, 2 months ago

Sorry about the mistake in the previous comment and the faie should be eliminated. The courts are a part of our system and it will be declaired unconsitional.

KSManimal 5 years, 2 months ago

This is all a bunch of posturing, or those behind it are ever dumber than they appear.

The KS constitution ALREADY gives the legislature (and ONLY the legislature) the power to appropriate funds. No money may leave the state treasury without a law specifically authorizing it.

The court order simply states that the legislature must actually SEND THE MONEY to school districts based on the law already in existence:

“(1)The State of Kansas is hereby enjoined from performing the unconstitutional act of altering, amending, superseding, by-passing, diluting or otherwise changing, directly or collaterally, any portion of the School district Finance and Quality Performance Act, K.S.A. 72-6405 et seq., as it existed on July 1, 2012, if the effect of such action would be to abolish, lower, dilute, or delay the revenue that would be derived from the base student aid per pupil set forth by K.S.A. 72-6410(b)(1) of $4,492. (2)The State of Kansas is hereby enjoined from performing the unconstitutional act of enacting any appropriation, or directing, modifying or canceling any transfer, or using any accounting mechanism or other practice that would, will, or may in due course, affect, effect, or fund less than the base student aid per pupil of $4,492 set forth in K.S.A. 72-6410(b)(1) as it existed on July 1, 2012, or as subsequently inflation adjusted as set forth in paragraph one of this Order or, otherwise, to unconstitutionally act to modify, change or alter downward the revenue to be received by a school district that would be derived from a base student aid per pupil of $4,492 as set forth in K.S.A (2012) 72-6410(b)(1) or as such inflation adjusted sum to be derived as set forth in paragraph one of this Order exists in the future.” (p. 245-7).

Gary Denning 5 years, 2 months ago

Currently cooking in the Kansas Legislature: 1. Change the Constitutional mandate to suitably fund education. 2. Eliminate checks and balances between the Courts and Legislature so the Court's can't rule on whether the Legislature is properly doing its job. 3. Change how we select judges so we can stack the deck with tea party judges who would not support schools in future lawsuits. 4. Change how we select justices so when the school finance lawsuits go up on appeal only Brownback followers will be making decisions on the appeals. 5. Eliminate the ability of your local school board members, superintendents and others to lobby the legislature through the use of and public funds. After all, school board members are compensated SO WELL in Kansas (for those of you who don't know, school board members are NOT paid). 6. Change how we elect school board members, making it a much more partisan vote--because it is so important to know whether your school board member has an R or D next to their name as opposed to knowing who they are, what their qualifications are and what they might do for students in their school districts. 7. Tell schools how to teach about climate change. 8. Tell schools they can't teach about sustainable environmental and economic policy.

Let's see, any more great ideas coming from our "less government is good" R dominated legislature?

Claudean McKellips 5 years, 2 months ago

Don't worry. Brownback had this guy testify and he wants this guy to reform our courts. What could possibly go wrong?

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago


Well, I predict we won't be seeing him comment on stories for a while then.

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