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.


hujiko 5 years, 3 months ago

“This is not an attack on public schools”

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

msezdsit 5 years, 3 months ago

Of course it will pass with a large margin. There are not enough intelligent people left in Kansas government to out vote the pre-evolution maggots that control our kansas government. An all out declaration of war against our children. Kinda adds a whole new twist to "bullying"

UltimateGrownup 5 years, 3 months ago

Being able to read the Constitution is bullying? The Constitution gives the legistature the right to choose the funding level for schools. I have a lot of experience with Kansas schools and believe me, the funding is plenty suitable.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

They're obligated to provide "suitable" funding, and according to their own studies to determine that level, they're not doing it, and haven't been for some time, even after a previous KS SC decision to that effect.

The KS SC is tasked with making sure that the KS legislature follows the KS constitution.

msezdsit 5 years, 3 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

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

Liberals sure do squirm when they don't have free reign to spend other people's money. If you don't like the funding level, you will be able to contact your representative, just like everybody else, and your position will be represented in balance with others. If a majority (democracy) agrees with your level of funding, it will be voted in. School funding is not a right. The 2nd amendment is a right. If you don't like it, or the 2nd amendment, please feel free to go to another liberal state (like NY) that ignores your rights, the way that you like, so they might better meet with your overall approval.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

The state constitution mandates "suitable" funding.

The legislature conducted studies to determine what that would be, and then ignored them and failed to fund the educational system at that level.

Majority vote is not the only thing that matters in this country.

question4u 5 years, 3 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?

skull 5 years, 3 months ago

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

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 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

Cant_have_it_both_ways 5 years, 3 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.

oldexbeat 5 years, 3 months ago

hey then we can pass all the 'right' kids with all A grades since they will buy them from the few teachers that would want to teach in Brownbackistan. We don't need experienced teachers -- but wait -- there isn't a line of people that want to teach. Gee, after all the attacks on them, can't understand why they don't want to be with dumb downed kids all day. Go anti-Evolution; go 6 thousand year old earth. Duh.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 3 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.

Andrew Dufour 5 years, 3 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.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Correct. The proposed amendment doesn't change anything. It merely restates the responsibility that the legislature already has, as only they determine funding levels of state spending.

But unless they change the preceding requirement to fund education at adequate levels, they'll still be in violation of the constitution.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago


But it's "suitable", not "adequate" I believe.

And, I fully expect them to try to get rid of that wording at some point.

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

I certainly don't think they'd be bothering if they didn't think their phrasing would cancel the court's authority. With the words, "exclusively a legislative power,” it sounds as though they want to render the court impotent regarding any funding issues, unable to rule or compel a certain level of funding. It's literally removing a check/balance from the system...

But just so everyone's clear, Kansans would get to vote on this amendment in the next election, and a 50%+ simple majority would be required for passage.

optimist 5 years, 3 months ago

That is correct that a majority of Kansas would be needed to approve the amendment but it is also important to note that in order for it to get that far it is necessary for both houses of the legislature to first pass the resolution on a 2/3 vote, not a simple majority.

gccs14r 5 years, 3 months ago

A simple majority of participating voters is all that is needed. That's why they're shooting for a primary election, so that turnout is as small as possible.

kansanbygrace 5 years, 3 months ago

Were you that kid they had to have in the teachers' lounge because you couldn't be trusted out of their sight?

Our teachers, every single one, were intelligent and well-prepared, diligent and more than patient, even with the dolts. And ours was a relatively poor county.

Scott Bonnet 5 years, 3 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.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 3 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.

optimist 5 years, 3 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.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

That's not at all true.

They simply determined that the legislature wasn't fulfilling their constitutional obligation to fund the educational system at "suitable" levels, as determined by the legislature's own studies on what would constitute that funding.

Determining the constitutionality, or lack thereof, of the legislature's activities is exactly what the KS SC is supposed to do.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

So the court made an arbitrary decision, as to what they decided that "suitable" meant. It needs to be defined that the legislature makes that final determination, which is what the amendment says.

bad_dog 5 years, 3 months ago

I believe the KS SC based their decision; at least in part, upon a study commissioned by the legislature itself. That study concluded KS schools were underfunded.

While you may not like it, the ruling is neither arbitrary nor overreaching by the Court.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

"as determined by the legislature's own studies".

The legislature conducted studies to determine what would be "suitable" funding for education, and then failed to provide that level of funding.

William Weissbeck 5 years, 3 months ago

Tell that to the federal courts that had to enforce "desegregation" by "all deliberate speed." A constitutional democracy with a separation of powers stops functioning when the legislature violates its own laws by failing to appropriate the money necessary to carry out the laws. Constitutional rights aren't subject to majority rule or to application only if we have the money. It's a very fine line. The courts have exercised great deference. Would you prefer that they jail the Speaker of the House for contempt of court? Federal courts have come close a few times on the Secretary of Interior when a number of administrations refused to abide by the Native American mineral rights/royalties rulings.

jafs 5 years, 3 months ago

Only because the state constitution includes the term "suitable" funding for education.

Without that, for example, if it simply said "funding for education", without any level specified, the state could provide as much or as little funding as it likes, I think.

KSManimal 5 years, 3 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?

fiddleback 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, understood. But nobody seems to be discussing the previous power exercised by the Kansas Supreme Court to compel additional funding. This battle already played out once in 2005, when the Court threatened to close all Kansas public schools, and the legislature finally backed down and increased funding.

I don’t make any assertion either way as to the current legislature’s grasp of the Kansas Constitution. But I am confident enough to speculate that what they think they are doing with this amendment is removing the Court’s ability to ever exercise any such authority or legal leverage again. They are indeed trying to change the rules mid-game, and they may just barely have enough brain cells and legal competence between them, and enough stupid voters supporting them, to achieve it.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

So in short, the court said to fix the bad wording in the law.

In_God_we_trust 5 years, 3 months ago

Regardless, the wording is going to be changed so the courts are no longer needed to be involved.

Claudean McKellips 5 years, 3 months ago

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

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