Archive for Monday, November 18, 2013

Brownback says litigation over school finance is ‘dumb way of handling this’; only Republicans invited to discussion

November 18, 2013, 11:53 a.m. Updated November 18, 2013, 4:43 p.m.


— Facing a possible court-ordered increase in public school funding, Gov. Sam Brownback has called for opening up the dialogue between legislators and school leaders.

But a meeting Brownback has set up for next week at Cedar Crest, the governor’s home, features only Republican elected officials and school district representatives who are not among the plaintiffs in the school finance lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court, according to an invitation obtained Monday by the Lawrence Journal-World.

Speaking against school finance litigation, Brownback said, “This a dumb way of handling this. This is the wrong way to handle it.”

A lower court panel has ruled that the state has unconstitutionally cut public school funding while passing mammoth tax cuts and it has ordered an increase of upwards of $500 million per year.

The state has appealed, and the Kansas Supreme Court is expected to rule in the next couple of months.

Brownback said school superintendents and legislative leaders needed to meet to discuss school funding.

“If you’re not talking, you’re not going to come up with any resolution. If you’re talking, you got a chance of being able to come up with something,” he said.

On Nov. 25, Brownback will meet with Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita; House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell; House Education Chairwoman Kasha Kelly and Senate Education Chairman Steve Abrams, both of whom are Republicans from Arkansas City; State Board of Education member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson; the superintendents of the Shawnee Mission, McPherson, Fairfield and Seaman school districts; and Kansas Association of School Boards President Frank Henderson.

The invitation from the governor’s office states: “I know the governor looks forward to a discussion and to open a line of communication between legislative leaders and the education community heading into next session.”

School finance is expected to dominate the 2014 legislative session, which starts in January.

Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said the district and local legislators already had open lines of communication.

“We have a great relationship with our local delegation and feel that they are very responsive to our needs,” Doll said.

On the issue of school funding litigation, Brownback re-emphasized his opposition to a court-ordered resolution.

As a law student at Kansas University more than 30 years ago, he said he listened to a lecture from former State District Judge Terry Bullock, who was a key figure in earlier Kansas school finance lawsuits.

“I heard a lecture from Judge Bullock then talking about the litigation and how he was going to handle it and push the Legislature. I was saying, ‘Why are you the guy doing this? This sounds like something, you know, a governor, or legislative leadership ought to be (handling). Why is this, a judge, that’s sitting here on top of this?”


Brock Masters 4 years, 7 months ago

Sounds like a man that knows he is going to lose in court.

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 7 months ago

Seems to me that if you don't want to get sued over school funding maybe don't cut school funding in a state with a constitutional mandate to fund the schools. I do agree that there are quicker ways to get things done than the courts but the fact is that this administration has not exactly shown a great deal of willingness to fund much of anything.

Greg Cooper 4 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, there are quicker ways of getting things done, and that entails following the law, and standing by the promises (legislation) you made in the first place, two things the neo-Republican legislature is loath to do.

Bruce Bertsch 4 years, 7 months ago

So lets see if I understand Sam the Sham...First you cut taxes decreasing the State revenue stream. Next you cut school funding due to a shortage of funds. When you are sued for violating the state constitution, your attorneys plead that you can't fund education because revenue is down. Maybe if we had just left taxes alone or (gasp) increased them, we could have avoided the whole thing. You know, having the legislature live up to what they promised the last time they were sued.

Patricia Davis 4 years, 7 months ago

I keep saying Brownback's financial policies are like the kid who killed his parents then begged the judge for clemency because he was an orphan.

Dumb is being a lawyer who doesn't understand the Kansas constitution.

Addie Line 4 years, 7 months ago

Sounds just like my grade schooler when she gets caught doing something wrong. "That rule is dumb anyways!"


Scott Morgan 4 years, 7 months ago

If raising taxes increase tax revenue, then why don't we raise it to 90 percent. Makes sense in this argument. Of course Brownback and other successful low or no tax governors understand the complexity of our system.

Or, have we become a grab the tax buck goodies nation?

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 years, 7 months ago

Have you seen Sam's projections for the State's revenues, based on his own projections he knew there would be shortfalls, if the taxes would have just stayed where they were in 3 years the gorernment would be working with a surplus, instead within two fiscal years they will be working with a deficit. These are Sam's numbers that he showed his legislators, not some third parties projections.

Brock Masters 4 years, 7 months ago


Brownback did raise taxes. He did not allow the sales tax to return to the lower rate as was promised and he has reduced property and mortgage tax deductions. The lower income tax rates are yet to come.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 7 months ago

How dumb is giving tax breaks to the rich and not funding schools.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 7 months ago

No one knows what is suitable funding for Kansas school districts to achieve required outcomes while also making efficient use of taxpayer funds. Not a single legislator, superintendent, policy analyst or judge knows what it should cost to efficiently achieve required outcomes because no such study or analysis has ever been conducted in Kansas.

The 2001 cost study used by the Montoy and Gannon courts was quite deliberately skewed by the authors to produce higher numbers. Augenblick & Myers was supposed to based their findings on schools that were academically successful AND efficient operators. They found 35 districts that met their criteria. But then they arbitrarily and without justification decided to ignore efficiency, saying that excluding high spenders "exclude those 50 districts, “might [have] undermine[d] the possibility that this higher [albeit inefficient] spending is what allows districts to be successful in Kansas.” A&M just wanted to inflate the numbers and adjusted their methodology for that purpose.

Some people believe that suitable funding levels were determined by a 2006 Legislative Post Audit (LPA) study but that is another misunderstanding. LPA made this and one other distinction perfectly clear (on page 2), saying, “it’s important to remember that these cost studies are intended to help the Legislature decide appropriate funding levels for K-12 public education. They aren’t intended to dictate any specific funding level, and shouldn’t be viewed that way. Finally, within these cost studies we weren’t directed to, nor did we try to, examine the most cost-effective way for Kansas school districts to be organized and operated. Those can be major studies in their own right."

The initial Gannon ruling and the Montoy courts noted that the Legislature provided no evidence indicating that its funding decisions over the years were based on their own detailed analysis. If so, it’s understandable that a court might find that the legislature had not done enough to arrive at a system that could be measured against a constitutional requirement and send the Legislature back to the drawing board, but it is quite another matter for a court to act as it did in Montoy and set a constitutional standard on the basis of a study deliberately designed to provide inflated figures.

The State Supreme Court is considering an appeal of Gannon as this is written. There is considerable speculation as to whether the court will decide in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant but there is also a third option. The court could declare that neither party is correct and order the Legislature to develop a funding system that provides funding required to meet intended outcomes while also having districts organized and operating in a cost-effective manner. That would be a decision in the favor of students and citizens.

This is all documented at

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 7 months ago

Does anyone else see a problem with making an argument in a comment section and then as your support for said comment citing your own work?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

The website is nonsense designed to make Sam Brownback look like he knows what he is talking about.

This Brownback crew spent too many years in Washington D.C.

Devin Wilson 4 years, 7 months ago

Meanwhile, USD512, #SMSD with a 100% efficiency rating from S&P, is seeing class sizes in k-3, k-5 hitting 27 to 30 in some cases. How can a student get a question asked and answered reasonably with so many kiddos in one class? I can tell you, and a lot of other parents can tell you what Unsuitable Funding is. And maybe ask a teacher or two. No one is paying me to say this. I'm fighting for my kids.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 7 months ago

Even the SMSD superintendent admits that the district is not operating efficiently. Every Legislative Post Audit study on school efficiency finds that districts are not efficient. There are many ways to get more money into classrooms by making better use of record-setting amounts already in the system.

By the way, school district staffing reports show that the student-to-regular-teacher ratio is pretty steady over the last 20 years. (Students are FTE enrolled and regular teachers are All Other teachers...excluding Special Ed, kindergarten, pre-K, Reading and Voc Ed; KSDE says it is generally fair to refer to All Other teachers as regular classroom teachers. The ratios are:

1993: 19.5 students per regular teacher 2005: 20.3 to 1 2008: 18.3 to 1 2013: 19.9 to 1

Class size would be somewhat different, but district records clearly show that the overall student/teacher ratio hasn't changed much.

No one...not a single legislator, superintendent, analyst, parent or judge...knows what is suitable funding for schools to achieve required outcomes and also operate efficiently. Legislators should figure that out and fund schools accordingly.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 7 months ago

Respectfully, they did not. Not a single legislative or court decision on school funding has taken efficient use of taxpayer money into account.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 7 months ago

Dave, please define what an efficient use of taxpayer money is? How can it be measured? And finally who is qualified to do the measuring? Certainly not any member of ALEC, KPI and definitely not anyone employed by Koch Industries.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 7 months ago

Generally speaking, efficiency is about getting the same function performed at a better price. It's pretty easily measured by benchmarking against similar operations (other school districts) and adjusting operating procedures. Legislative Post Audit has conducted quite a few efficiency studies of Kansas school districts and every time listed multiple options to operate more efficiently.

Julius Nolan 4 years, 7 months ago

In plain English, you can't answer my question. But that is apparently what you are paid for. No facts, just meaningless so called facts, but no real, verifiable facts.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

No Barbara, it is calling you out for endless diatribes about Koch being behind all evil in our society. Are you paid to blog?

All government actions are governed by the tension between those of you who never took economics 101 (or flunked it) and the people who pay the bills.

Legislative post audit has indeed found potential savings in many of our school districts.

But that is ducking the issue on you arguing that unelected jurists should set our taxes because you do not agree with what the majority of elected officials in Kansas have decided.

Only liberals know the true costs of everything and their answer is tax tax tax and focus those taxes on people who have worked all their lives to get a little ahead. Your complaints about Koch mask your demand that people with a lot less income then Koch pay your bills!!

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

I do not understandd the Republicans only comment. Is the Governor not the "head" of the Republican party in Kansas? Does he not have a right to meet with his party. Does Mr. Obama not hold meetings in the White House that are Democratic only meetings?

Now as far as state programs and responsibilities - that is the outcome of our democratic process. Studies come and go - validity is always suspect when they deal with resources. Just because you personally feel more money should be spent on something does not make that a political imperative. Others disagree and they appear to be in the majority at this time.

If you think something deserves more resources you are always free to send in your money. You just don't have the right to make other people send in their money when you are in the political minority.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Well, how do we decide who is fooling whom. Letting a court with a strong liberal background decide is - well a bit silly.

That is why we use the franchise. There is no right answer as to how much funding is required for our schools or anything else. Public funding is and will remain a tension between those who want more and those who do not want to pay for it.

You are one side of that argument.

It is hard to argue gross incompetence when our kids test in the top 20%.

Cille King 4 years, 7 months ago

"a court with a strong liberal background"

Three of the seven justices were appointed by a Republican Governor, three by Democratic Governor, the seventh by Governor Parkinson, a Republican who was chosen as running mate by a Democrat. This court couldn't get more balanced.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

I guess you do not understand the process. A group of lawyers get together and send three names to the governor who must pick from among them. Go check the political composition of the group selecting the names.

Cille King 4 years, 7 months ago

And of the five lawyers, one is elected from each of the four congressional districts, the fifth is elected 'at large'.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

By lawyers!!~

And yes there is data that reflects that lawyers tend to be more democratic than republican (at the national level) How that plays in Kansas is an unknown to all of us (of course liberals know everything).

The rest of your comments are irrelevant trivia. The governor is constrained to appoint only people selected by that committee. The committee is appointed by lawyers (oh elected) by lawyers or appointed by the governor. As I wrote - what is the political affiliation of those lawyers. Oh by the by how many of the committee were appointed by the current governor (at best a minority)

We have had a long run of democratic governors which inevitable leads to a bias politically for any appointed players (that is why the governor has appointment authority but it takes time to change things as many of these appointees have fixed terms.

Convince me that many of our current jurists are not the product of a Democratic Party biased process - ie activist jurists.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

I think gutting is a bit of an over reach. The kids are performing in the top 20% nationally. That is more than adequate.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

The issue is a court deciding my tax level. That was what our original revolution was about - taxation without representation in case you avid liberals have forgotten. I want only elected people deciding my taxes!~!!!

Unelected courts have no business in that decision. The term "adequate" is to be determined by the political process and not by unelected jurists.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Oh, if they decide there is not enough money for schools from where do they expect it to come.

They will be setting my taxes!!!!!

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Exactly, our taxes will be raised to pay for this.

If we are to use studies to grade the legislature then whose studies do we use. We have the advocates who want ever more money and we have the opponents that believe it can be cut more.

Fact: Kansas kids are scoring on national tests at the 80 percentile. Does look to me as if we are spending adequately on education.

I can never understand people who want 40% of the state budget set by a few jurists in Topeka.

Our country was founded on the notion that our taxes should be levied by people who represent us - ie elected officials.

Tell me just exactly how do unelectd jurists fill that bill.

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

What a crock. When the minority is the majority they decide. When the minority is a minority they decide.

Don't the people who pay the bills get a say??

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

What an insulting insinuation. Once again you have created a straw-man and judged me wanting against it. What a crock!

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Kind of like the action in the Senate today??

You owe me an apology for your accusation

Where are you getting your history??. I would argue that many of the voters from MO that drove our initial slavery constitution were not landed gentry. Perhaps paid by landed gentry but common folk just the same. Same same with our Topeka constitution.

The history of man(woman) is a journey from no say at all to say by some of the people to greater and gr5eater involvement by common folk in our political process. Of course it is you that are arguing we need an unelected court to override the common folk (or perhaps you are arguing that all the people who vote Republican in our state are "bought" by landed gentry (koch)

Really silly!

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Another Barbara straw-man. I wrote noting about the issue of how judges are selected other than to clarify the notion that they are not freely appointed by the governor We can argue that elsewhere. but I do note that there are compromise solutions that keep the appointments in the hands of elected officials while making sure political hacks are not the norm.

This entire track about landed gentry is a distraction - and if that is censored we will go to the boss. We are discussing Kansas today. The people electing our officials are not landed gentry.

As I wrote we have come a long way from a king ruling us to where most of us get to vote. Now you seem to want to go back to a few jurists selected by a group of lawyers deciding 40% of the Kansas budget.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Where in the world does Sam Brownback get his unorthodox thinking?

ALEC Private Schools - Corporate Education Reformers Plot Next Steps at Secretive Meeting

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Now Sam has scheduled his own secret meeting………. what's up with that?

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Maybe you better watch out for black choppers.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Brownback is among the vocal minority in the country that believes it is best to sell out certain government services to corp America so they can make a bunch of money. It's all about corporate profits.

There are plenty of for profit private schools if parents want that for their children. Obviously the enrollment numbers dictate that public education is the choice by the greater majority of taxpayers across the country.

It is NOT parents who are seeking to change this it is politicians funded by special interest campaign money.

Why don't voters simply shut down this movement on a ballot vote so right wing GOP politicians stop wasting taxpayers time and money screwing with the budget year after year?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Considering Sam Brownback is quite close to the Koch family … his political philosophies must also be closely related.

John Birch Society Celebrates Koch Family For Their Role In Founding The Hate Group

The 2012 GOP is the naked Emperor, but covered with tattoos reading "John Birch Society," "Koch Industries," and "I heart Bull Connor." The "subjects" are the media, which thinks the GOP is clothed in the raiments of a respectable political party.

The 2012 Republican Party is barely distinguishable from the John Birch Society. It is funded in large part by the Koch brothers, the heirs of Fred Koch, one of the Birch Society's founding members. The Kochs may not be members of the Society, but their ideas -- extreme laissez-faire capitalism with communism lurking in any regulation, unions, health care and even Civil Rights laws -- are virtually the same. (One of the current right's few attempts to avoid looking like Birchers is morphing communism into "socialism." No need to explain to the faithful that they're really the same.)

What is infuriating is not just that the Republican Party has gone mostly Bircher, but that the media refuses to recognize this. One party is advocating killing the New Deal, starving government by cutting taxes on the wealthiest, using the noxious voter-suppression methods of the most vicious segregationists, and tolerating racist conspiracy theories. That is not business as usual.

The GOP's naked extremism is there for all to see. We need to constantly point this out if no one else will.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

Unfortunately USD 497 is using K-12 Inc which is part of the right wing agenda which to my way of thinking should be replaced.

Think about these.

--- Calvert

--- Live Education

--- Oak Meadow

--- Living Education – quite interesting

George Lippencott 4 years, 7 months ago

Coming back to the left side of the page in summary Barbara Gordon seems to be arguing that a few jurists in Topeka should set 40% of our taxes? She seems to be arguing that this needs to be so because a study (one of a number) suggested we could use more money for K-12. She seems to demean studies that suggest that there were flaws in the first study. She ignores the very real fact that that the kids are doing very well on national standardized tests. She ignores separation of powers and the very real argument that we should only be taxed by people who we elect. – as set forth in our founding documents.

To me that collection of her arguments suggests that she wants government run by unelected educated elites based on studies of dubious quality. That is sort of the notion of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the communist political system.

Why cannot the people of Kansas through their elected officials set tax rates as they have for generations? If they have been misled (You can keep your health care …) at least here in Kansas we can adjust that through the elected process in short order. Apparently patience (waiting for the electorate) is not the strong suit of the left. Or is it that the left really does not trust the electorate or believe in Democracy???

Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

George reminds me of an old saying. Some people can't see the forest for the trees.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.