Archive for Thursday, January 31, 2013

GOP proposes amendment to end school funding lawsuit

January 31, 2013


— Republican legislators in Kansas want to rewrite the education funding provision in the state constitution to end a pending lawsuit that threatens to force the state to boost spending on public schools.

The proposed amendment would add a new sentence to the Kansas Constitution’s article on education, declaring that the Legislature has the exclusive power to determine how much the state will spend on schools. Senate Vice President Jeff King, an Independence Republican who helped draft the measure, said he believes it would render the lawsuit moot.

The Senate Education Committee agreed Wednesday to sponsor such a measure before seeing the text. King provided a copy of the language to The Associated Press when the proposal was finished Wednesday night. Supporters plan to have it formally introduced today in the Senate.

King, an attorney, is also chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and said his panel will have hearings on the measure next week. It must be adopted by two-thirds majorities in both chambers and approved by a simple majority of voters in a statewide election to change the constitution. Supporters hope to put the proposal on the ballot no later than the August 2014 primary election.

Many of King’s fellow conservative Republicans have been frustrated by a string of court decisions over the past decade, including multiple rulings by the Kansas Supreme Court, requiring the state to boost its spending on schools. King said supporters of the measure want voters to decide whether elected officials will control education funding, as he and other lawmakers believe the constitution originally intended.

“The courts have interpreted the constitution to say they have the authority,” King told The Associated Press during an interview. “It’s time for the people of Kansas to put that debate to rest.”

The proposal is likely to meet strong resistance from education officials, as well as Democrats and many moderate Republicans in the Legislature. In the past, they’ve argued such measures would allow the state to shortchange schools.

King said he wants to cut off the “endless cycle of litigation.” But Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a teacher and Topeka Democrat, said the courts have only stepped in because of lawsuits prompted by the Legislature’s refusal to adequately fund schools.

“They want to change the rules in the middle of the game, basically,” Hensley told AP. “It’s the ultimate cop-out.”

The education article says that the Legislature shall “make suitable provision for finance” for the state’s “educational interests.” The proposal would add a new sentence saying, “The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power” and “shall be established solely by the Legislature.”

The Kansas Supreme Court has said the existing provision means legislators must finance a suitable education for every child, suggesting in 2005 and 2006 that the state could face continual increases in spending to ensure that public schools keep improving.

Lawmakers dramatically increased spending on schools after those rulings but backed away from their promises during the Great Recession.

That prompted a new lawsuit, resulting in a ruling by a three-judge panel in Shawnee County that the state must boost is spending by at least $440 million a year. And, especially irritating conservatives, the judges criticized legislators for claiming to do all they reasonably could for schools while approving massive income tax cuts last year.

The state is pursuing an appeal, but it’s not clear when the Supreme Court might rule. King said supporters of the constitutional change hope voters approve it before a high court decision. He didn’t rule out a special election before August 2014.

King said he’s also backing the measure because the courts order change in how education funds are distributed, for example, by ruling that too much money goes to rural schools at the expense of urban schools.

“This is not an attack on public schools,” King said.

Hensley said if legislators are frustrated, they should remember that issues were brought to the courts by unhappy parents and educators.

“We basically have neglected our duty to fund schools,” he said.


Claudean McKellips 1 year, 2 months ago

The Founding Fathers wanted our courts to act as watchdogs, not lapdogs.


Roland Gunslinger 1 year, 2 months ago

You can rewrite that whole amendment with one sentence:

The checks and balances of government doesn't apply to the state of Kansas.


autie 1 year, 2 months ago

Manimal, right on. I can't figure these how powered lawyers don't understand the part about the court ruling the legislature had not followed the law. And King is one of those high powered Ivy league boys. Book smart and people dumb.


KSManimal 1 year, 2 months ago

The legislature already hold the exclusive power to appropriate money. No money can leave the treasury except as per law; and only the legislature can establish law. From the KS Constitution, Article 2:

1: Legislative power. The legislative power of this state shall be vested in a house of representatives and senate.

24: Appropriations. No money shall be drawn from the treasury except in pursuance of a specific appropriation made by law.

So either these GOPpers haven't read the constitution, or don't understand it, or (most likely) it's more of the same political theater and posturing to impress folks who are easily impressed (like their voter base).

The court did not appropriate funds, nor did the court order to legislate greater appropriation than they already have. The court merely said the legislature must follow its own law, rather than appropriating far less money than is provided for under current law.

How awesome would it be if the news media got this stuff right in the press?


optimist 1 year, 2 months ago

The courts have hijacked the state by “taking” the authority to tax and spend. While the court is an arbiter of fairness in funding it cannot impose taxation and increase spending. The thought of them doing so is ludicrous. If the court wishes to be involved in solving this issue they must come up with a legal remedy that falls within their authority.


William Weissbeck 1 year, 2 months ago

Just so you have a heads up on where this is headed. In Indiana the public schools that close unneeded buildings must maintain them for four years (utilities, security, etc) and if wanted, to sell the unneeded buildings to charter schools for a dollar. But this is the best part - if the charter schools subsequently sell the buildings, they get to keep the money.


Scott Bonnet 1 year, 2 months ago

That's right weiser, ALL teachers are subhuman, love coffee, and money grub. Why else would anyone want to be a teacher in Kansas? This state is digging a hole from which we may never be able to climb out. We are the poster children for the race to the bottom. We need to dispatch with Brownback soon.


weiser 1 year, 2 months ago

Most of my teachers didn't care if we learned anything. They liked coffee and gossip, waiting to enjoy retirement for their next 30 years. Throw em' some more money!


Andrew Dufour 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't know if that sentence will accomplish what they want it to. The fact is the court is not legislating it is declaring the current funding unconstitutional. The legislature still has the authority to fund schools, the court ruling didn't suddenly change the budget, it ordered the legislature to change the budget. Adding a sentence that says the legislature controls funding doesn't change anything. The fact is the court is interpreting the constitution to require the legislature to adequately fund education, it's not doing the funding. This amendment doesn't change that, they need to remove the provision of the constitution all together that says they have to even worry about education.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Brownback should be held in contempt of court.

Most republicans did not vote for him to bring HIS personal agenda to Kansas government. There is no mandate for such. One business person told me yesterday he is so sorry he voted for Brownback.


Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 2 months ago

This is a good thing, now we need to get rid of tenure and move to a totally performanced based system. Imagine how nice it would be to be able to give the good teachers a raise and fire the bad ones instead of this one size fits all system we have now.

It can only get better.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

This is the Brownback strategy and the source.

ALEC's education bills encompass more than 20 years of effort to privatize public education through an ever-expanding.

PAA In Florida

Walton Money Against Public Education

Milwaukee - laundering money away from Public education


skull 1 year, 2 months ago

Kansas - "We've been short-changing schools since before it was legal"


question4u 1 year, 2 months ago

Once again the extremists of Kansas politics are spitting on American values.

The separation of powers exists to prevent corruption in government. Who but a corrupt government would want to eliminate that safeguard?

Why does the Legislature object to making the "adequate provision" for the education of the citizens of Kansas that is specified by the state constitution in an amendment created by popular vote? Why, when the Legislature's own study suggests that adequate provision is not being made, does the Legislature determine not to correct the problem but instead to change the constitution? How will they make the statement "Kansas has no responsibility for making adequate provision for the education of its citizens" sound like anything but a massive neglect of responsibility. Even Brownback calls education a core function of government.

Does Kansas exist to further the profits of Chamber of Commerce members? Should Kansas schools be funded not at the level of need, as determined by the Legislature's own study, but at the level that the Chamber of Commerce specifies?


msezdsit 1 year, 2 months ago

These are the same me me me and me only tripe that will cry foul when the constitution isn't upheld and interpreted to support their ideology unless of course, it doesn't suit them at all so just change it. It is only our children they are throwing under the bus.

I guess these are also pro gun advocates that probably need to have the second amendment applied to them


toe 1 year, 2 months ago

Long over due and inevitable. It will pass with a significant margin.


hujiko 1 year, 2 months ago

“This is not an attack on public schools”

Gee, that hadn't even come to mind. Thanks for the reassurance.


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