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."


Kate Rogge 4 years, 6 months 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.

Larry Sturm 4 years, 6 months ago

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

Brad Greenwood 4 years, 6 months 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.

Jeffrey Sykes 4 years, 6 months ago

I thought that was a curious comment too. The courts aren't going to "shut down the schools." I read this all as a positive. Brownback sees that his numbers in polls are going down and he knows that this issue is going to come back and get him. If the legislature doesn't do their job and he continues to obfuscate, the only thing he is going to be doing is looking for a new job.

Cheryl Nelsen 4 years, 6 months 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.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 6 months 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"

Julius Nolan 4 years, 6 months ago

Thanks Dave for quickly providing Koch talking points. Never let facts get in your way.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 6 months ago

Ad hominem. If you believe there is anything factually inaccurate, please share your proof.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 6 months ago

Again, ad hominem. Allegations and questions about funding sources of organizations is simply about distracting people from substantive discussion of the issues and facts. FYI, the people behind the link you provided also do not provide the names of their donors...and have every right to do so. But you gotta love the irony of their phony outrage.

We would like nothing more than to engage in substantive civil discussions of the issues with those with alternate views. Unfortunately they refuse to do anything but make false accusations. Bring on the Progress Now, KNEAs, etc. of the world. Let's talk issues.

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 6 months ago

speaking of phony outrage, Dave why are you even here commenting. You are well aware that people posting in the comment section of the LJ world are not paid researchers and thus do not have the funding/time to engage in the necessary research to refute the points you're making here. You do this for a living and you're paid to do it so of course you're going to get ad hominem responses on this page. And you know that's why you come here, you won't get any serious push back and you can simply hide behind "jeez debate my facts and ignore the man behind the curtain"

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 6 months ago

Dave, you really shouldn't use your own reports to support your own claims. If this is such an absolute obvious fact why can't you cite any outside sources to bolster your claims. And I read the reports you cited, and yes you cite to the NAEP in your reports, that's all well and good but your reports and your comments here do not prove your point. There are far too many factors (not necessarily all related to funding) that affect achievement and you're basic argument is that funding doesn't help because "hey look no improvement in achievement."

David Reber 4 years, 6 months ago

Proof of "anything factually inaccurate"? For one, Dave, your claim of a "$500 million automatic annual increase in Local Option Budget" is a flat-out lie. The local option budget is just that - local. It is set by each local, elected board independent of what the state does. If locals don't like paying for what their local board decides in that regard, they are free to vote for someone else next time.

Furthermore, your numbers about how much everyone's taxes would rise are also flat-out lies. You fail to mention that your calculations most certainly didn't consider the option of actually asking YOUR BOSSES to pay income tax at all. Nor did you consider the options of tossing out the ridiculous number of sales and property tax exemptions the legislature has handed out for decades. We don't need massive tax increases, Dave. We just need to ask EVERYONE to actually pay taxes.

Finally, your nonsense about "we're spending more, but achievement hasn't budged" is getting really stale. As always, you refuse to recognize that inflation happens. Of COURSE we're spending more - things cost more now than they did 10, 20, or 30 years ago. Not to mention little additional expenses like computers and internet, and countless new government mandates that invariably come without sufficient funding.

Maybe the Koch's should hire someone else. You're not very good at this, Dave.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 6 months ago

The LOB is automatic. It is a percent of districts' general fund, so if state aid increases, the LOB amount automatically increase unless districts reduce their mill levy. They did not do so during the last major funding increase.

The calculations are based on current tax collections from Legislative Research. My bosses are the KPI trustees, not the Koch brothers. But just to amuse you, Dept. of Revenue says the exemption on pass through income is about $160 million, so even if the Legislature eliminated that exemption, there would still need to be about a $500 miilion tax increase on individuals to raise BSAPP to $4,492 and meet the other claim from KSDE.

Finally, even adjusting for inflation, enrollment and factoring out KPERS, funding has increased 29% since 1998 but achievement is flat on independent national tests.

Our facts are accurate.

David Reber 4 years, 6 months ago

A lie repeated is still a lie, Dave. The LOB is NOT automatic. Districts develop and vote on their budgets every year, and that includes deciding what level of LOB.

I said nothing about pass-through income, so your attempt at deflection isn't very amusing after all. What I said was that additional funding is easily available simply by asking everyone to pay taxes - "small" businesses (like Koch Industries), farms, health clubs, and yes even churches. Again, you ignore this because it's your job to hide the fact that your bosses are economic parasites; and it's your job to direct people's frustrations onto public schools instead.

Finally, inflation alone doesn't account for anywhere close to the additional costs of running schools today compared to back in the 1990's. I started teaching in '96. Back then, there were no phones or computers on my desk. No internet in my building. My school had just begun to have central air conditioning. There were no such things as state assessments. You must think all these things are free.

We sure could make our schools more efficient - your stated goal - if we'd just go back to no central a/c, no computers, no fancy phone system with that fancy voice-mail stuff. Just give us a blackboard, some chalk, and an open window for a cheap fan we bring from home and we're good to go. One slight problem, though....the KS Constitution requires IMPROVEMENT in our educational system. What your bosses want is stagnation.

Your "facts" are deliberately misleading, and everyone here knows it.

Dave Trabert 4 years, 6 months ago

My relationship to Kansas Policy Institute is well known. Caleb Stegall wrote that analysis for us in 2009. It's interesting that you and others find fault with the messengers but never are able or willing to have substantive, civil and fact-based discussions.

I disagree that funding the formula would end successful litigation. There simply is no way to substantiate such a position. One might think it should, but one might also think courts would never violate the Kansas Constitution in ordering the expenditure of money.

Andrew Dufour 4 years, 6 months ago

Dave, the reason no one responds with "civil and fact based" responses to you is simply because you're seen as a paid representative for the Koch brothers so no one really cares what your reports say. The problem is that because your organization has a slant to it and a clear political agenda it's hard to take your reports seriously especially when you present them as absolute fact without noting at the beginning who pays for them. If this were a discussion about the minimum wage and there was a commenter on here railing against raising it and citing all sorts of blog posts to substantiate his claim but those posts were written by him and he was paid by Walmart, similarly no one would really consider his opinion valid either.

David Reber 4 years, 6 months ago

"one might also think courts would never violate the Kansas Constitution in ordering the expenditure of money."

Look closely at that right there, folks. CLASSIC example of how Dave T creates his intended message in the reader's mind without, technically, saying anything dishonest. It's the equivalent of Fox News' prefacing all their lies with the phrase "...some people believe...".

You're right, Dave. One might think that the courts wouldn't violate the KS Constitution by ordering the expenditure of money. And guess what...they have not. Show me ONE court order in which the court ordered the legislature to spend money that hasn't already been appropriated by law. And I don't mean nebulous, vague, Koch-talking-points or posturing about how it isn't the role of courts to interpret law (because that is precisely the role of courts, but I digress...). Show me a direct quote from a court ruling in which the court dictates the appropriation of funds. Take your time.

Mark Rainey 4 years, 6 months ago

"I disagree that funding the formula would end successful litigation" any reason for the strange wording David? In your earlier post you made no mention of any increase in corporate income taxes. Any reason?

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 years, 6 months ago

And let's for a second pretend that Sam had not made the unwise decision to enforce these tax hikes in the state while cutting the taxes for most businesses and the friends, what would that have done to the State. Sam's own numbers has the state living in the red in I believe is all yeah 2015 with his current funding levels of schools, where as keeping the tax rates what they were would have resulted in budget surplus in fiscal year 2014. How do you justify that? Why has the upper tax bracket had their percentage of taxes they are asked to pay cut in half while the lower tax bracket will only see a small drowned a rise in the taxes that they pay everyday that effect them way more than they do the rich?

Bruce Bertsch 4 years, 6 months 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.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

ALEC Meetings are never open….

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

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

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

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months 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.

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