Archive for Monday, November 25, 2013

Governor opens dialogue aimed at avoiding future school finance lawsuits

November 25, 2013


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  • — Gov. Sam Brownback met for nearly an hour Monday with education officials and legislative leaders, hoping to find a way to avoid future lawsuits over the funding of Kansas public schools.

    The meeting included three district superintendents, the president of the Kansas Association of School Boards, as well as leaders of the Kansas House and Senate.

    "We've got excellent K-12 schools in the state of Kansas, and we've had 40 years of litigation over how we fund it," Brownback said after the meeting. "So what we're trying to do is see how we can continue to have excellent K-12 schools, have them financed and not have the courts shut them down."

    Gov. Sam Brownback speaks with reporters after meeting Monday with school officials and legislative leaders about ways to avoid future litigation over school finance.

    Gov. Sam Brownback speaks with reporters after meeting Monday with school officials and legislative leaders about ways to avoid future litigation over school finance.

    The meeting came while the Kansas Supreme Court is weighing arguments in a lawsuit that could force the Legislature to approve more than $500 million a year in increased spending for public schools.

    Critics of Brownback's administration noted before it took place that only Republican leaders of the Legislature had been invited, and not one of the superintendents was from a district involved in the pending lawsuit.

    A ruling in that case is expected around the first of the year. And if the court sides with the plaintiffs in that case, statehouse observers say it will dominate next year's budget discussions and could threaten the future of Brownback's signature policy of massive income tax cuts.

    But some of the school officials who attended the meeting said there is no secret about how to avoid future litigation.

    "Fund the formula," said Mike Mathes, superintendent of the Seaman school district in Topeka.

    Frank Henderson, a member of the Seaman school board who is serving as this year's president of KASB, echoed that sentiment.

    "I don't think there's a problem with the formula," he said. "Of course it hasn't been funded. If it was funded, we might be better able to see what the needs are."

    Since 2009, base funding for public schools has been cut nearly 13 percent, to $3,838 per pupil, the lowest amount in more than a decade.

    Brownback, however, insists that "total" spending on public schools has gone up each year of his administration, although that is mainly, if not entirely, due to mandatory increases in retirement system contributions.

    "I think that most people believe you should fund your pensions," Brownback said in a meeting with reporters after the meeting. "Most teachers get pensions and want to see their pensions funded, and you have a limited amount of total state dollars."

    During his first year in office in 2011, Brownback spent considerable energy trying to devise a new funding formula for public schools to replace the one that has been in place, with some modifications, since 1992. That plan, however, never advanced to the floor of either chamber of the Legislature.

    It was not clear after Monday's meeting whether Brownback still hopes to overhaul the formula, or if he is seeking some other accommodation with the education community.

    "The goal for this meeting was just to have a dialogue between key players," said State Board of Education member Ken Willard, a Hutchinson Republican.

    Brownback said he planned to continue the dialog.

    "This is an initial discussion, first meeting," he said. "We'll have (followup) meetings to discuss what we can do to move the discussion on forward in a positive and robust manner."


    Richard Heckler 4 months, 2 weeks ago

    The fiscally reckless conservatives have taught most all school districts that cutting funding will not improve the prospects for students. In fact we are leaning how detrimental reckless budget cuts damage a school district.

    For certain these budget cuts have NOT improved the numbers of high school graduates.

    25 years of cutting budgets to public education demonstrate a documented monumental failure.


    Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    How many Kansas Legislators attend secret ALEC meetings? Other than the ALEC meeting Sam Brownback just sponsored?


    Richard Heckler 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    ALEC Meetings are never open….

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


    Lane Signal 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    The whole point here is Brownie knows he's going to be on the losing side of the lawsuit. He's trying to get out in front of this to make himself look like he's trying to find a constructive solution. Before the writing was on the wall that Brownie and his cronies would come up short on this exercise in robbing our children, he was not the slightest bit interested in talking about it. His solution was to ignore those who protested as he and the legislature looted the education budget to pay for tax cuts for the fat cats. He also seems to want us to think that the courts will shut down the schools, not just force the state to pony up some more cash.

    Arguing that school success comes down only to achievement scores is a very narrow and dim view of public education. Schools offer and should offer a wide variety of learning opportunities and the standardized tests that are used to measure student success are at best a blunt instrument that measures an extremely limited range of subject matter. Teachers already spend far too much time teaching to these ridiculous tests. I reject the premise that achievement scores are an appropriate comprehensive measure of school success. This is another trick by the right to remove funding. If they can make the tests narrow enough and the curriculum narrow enough, they can take away any funding that does not serve those scores and end up de-funding arts and other enriching activities that almost all of us think are important components in our children's education.


    Bruce Bertsch 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    Dear Dave...If your group's funders hadn't succeeded in convincing our sheep legislators to continue reducing the State's revenues while promising to increase funding, this would not be an issue and the $$$ would have been there. The ill conceived and never successful idea of boosting the economy of a state by reducing taxes on the wealthy has caused this "crises". The seeming huge increases in taxes needed are the result of organizations like yours misleading the public as to what actually fuels our economy. Here's a hint, its not the wealthy like the Koch's, its consumers. No matter how much we lower taxes on the 1%, the other 99 are not going to benefit. There is no such thing as trickle down. Supply side economics does not work in a demand based economy. While there are inefficiencies in education spending, most are the result of unfunded mandates and the need to mainstream everyone, not by wasteful spending at the local level.


    Dave Trabert 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    Anyone who thinks "funding the formula" would end litigation has not paid close attention to the school districts' claims in court. Their attorneys want $6,000 per-pupil. They are on record claiming that $4,492 in BSAPP is insufficient. District demands would cause a $1.7 billion annual increase from the state budge and another $500 million automatic annual increase in Local Option Budget. That would take total taxpayer support to $17,535 per-pupil. It would either result in a 55% property tax increase to cover the entire amount, raising the state sales tax rate to 10.34% to cover the state budget portion and a 13% local property tax increase for LOB or a 67% increase in individual income taxes and a 13% increase in local property taxes.

    And if history is any guide, student achievement wouldn't budge. In fact, taxpayers have spent nearly $3 billion on At Risk funding since 2006 with the intent of closing achievement gaps for low income kids. But the gap got a little wider and those students - roughly half of the state - are two to three years behind their peers. See

    More money and lawsuits won't raise student achievement but neither will the current system. We need an entire new system. See "Student-Focused Funding Solutions for Public Education"


    Cheryl Nelsen 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    I think the key phrase in the story is "It was not clear after Monday's meeting . . ." Nothing is clear in the Brownback administration. Important decisions are made in meetings that are planned for him to appear to care about this state and its people. He includes only those who will agree with him. I'm disgusted with him and his agenda. Now, when he thinks there is a possibility of losing his case, he wants to talk. Why didn't he talk BEFORE the legislature turned its back on education.? Because he didn't think he needed to then.


    Brad Greenwood 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    "...and not have the courts shut them down"? Since when is it the court's fault that the legislature has refused to fund the formula that the legislature itself recommended? All the court is doing is telling them to do their damn job. In a perfect world, the only thing(s) that I would hope would be shut down are the empty-headed pie-holes filling up the capitol.


    Mropus Wan 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    "But some of the school officials who attended the meeting said there is no secret about how to avoid future litigation.

    "Fund the formula," said Mike Mathes, superintendent of the Seaman school district in Topeka."

    There really isn't much more to discuss with Brownback, and I highly doubt this "discussion" with him is all that productive in the first place.

    He knows he's about to lose the pending lawsuit, as do the Conservatives, again. And every time they ask how they can work this out, the answer is really is simple as above:

    "Fund the formula."

    Then take your hat, coat, kindly excuse yourself and get the heck outa there. End of discussion.


    Larry Sturm 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    More meetings to figure out how to cut more funding from schools. Secret meetings without all the players involved.


    Kate Rogge 4 months, 3 weeks ago

    Don't talk to Brownback. What a waste of time (unless you enjoy listening to him talk about whether your pension will be funded). Take him to court, and keep taking him to court until Kansas public schools are correctly funded. And then take him to court for malfeasance in office for not funding schools adequately in the first place. Neither Brownback nor the Koch alphabet groups who control his legislative agenda are interested in strengthening public schools. They intend to underfund public schools until they're broken, and then pay private schools lots and lots of state money to fix the failure they've created. To hell with that.


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