Archive for Friday, May 27, 2016

Kansas Supreme Court rejects lawmakers’ school finance changes, threatens in new ruling to close schools

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert, center, asks a question to the state as they make their arguments in front of the Kansas Supreme Court, Tuesday May 10, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. The court was hearing arguments Tuesday on whether the technical changes approved by lawmakers earlier this year are fair enough to poor districts that the justices can abandon a threat to shut down public schools. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert, center, asks a question to the state as they make their arguments in front of the Kansas Supreme Court, Tuesday May 10, 2016, in Topeka, Kan. The court was hearing arguments Tuesday on whether the technical changes approved by lawmakers earlier this year are fair enough to poor districts that the justices can abandon a threat to shut down public schools. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)

May 27, 2016, 5:11 p.m. Updated May 27, 2016, 6:52 p.m.

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TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court late Friday ruled that the Legislature failed to fix the constitutional problems in the state’s school finance formula and renewed its threat to close public schools on July 1 if lawmakers do not solve the problems by then.

“As we explained in more detail in (February), the inability of Kansas schools to operate would not be because this court would have ordered them closed,” the court said in a 47-page near-unanimous decision. “Rather it would be because this court would have performed its sworn duty to the people of Kansas under their constitution to review the legislature’s enactments and ensure the legislature’s compliance with its own duty under Article 6.”

Alan Rupe, lead attorney for the plaintiffs in the case, said the decision was what he expected.

“Simply put, the state legislature’s unconstitutional enactment is void; it has not performed its duty,” Rupe said in a written statement shortly after the opinion was released.

But Gov. Sam Brownback was harshly critical of the decision.

“It is unfortunate that the Kansas Supreme Court has put at risk the education of Kansas students by threatening to close schools on June 30,” Brownback said. “The court is engaging in political brinkmanship with this ruling, and the cost will be borne by our children.”

“We will carefully consider the implications of the Court’s ruling and its disregard for the proper role of the Kansas Legislature,” he said.

Friday’s opinion in the long-running case of Gannon v. Kansas dealt only with the question of whether school funding is distributed equitably among all 286 districts. It specifically dealt with so-called “equalization aid” that is used to subsidize the capital outlay and local option budgets of districts with less property wealth than others so they don’t have to levy higher property taxes to raise comparable amounts of money.

The lawsuit was filed in 2010 by the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kan., districts and followed up on one in 1999 that forced lawmakers to promise big increases in annual spending on public schools, which now tops $4 billion. Legislators kept their promises at first but backed off during the Great Recession.

The court has repeatedly said the Kansas Constitution requires lawmakers to finance a suitable education for every child.

The court on Friday struck down changes lawmakers made this year to the local option budget formula. It also struck down a so-called “severability” clause that said if any part of the formula is found unconstitutional, the court should assume that the Legislature would have passed the rest of the bill anyway.

Local option budgets allow districts to raise additional money on their own, above and beyond what the state provides in block grants. All told, when local and state dollars are put together, local option budgets add up to about $1 billion, or 25 percent of the entire K-12 school funding budget.

“Based on the record before us, this court cannot conclude that the legislature would have passed the (school funding bill) without the inclusion of the unconstitutional provisions,” the court said.

Justices Carol Beier and Caleb Stegall have both recused themselves from the Gannon case — Stegall because he served as Brownback’s chief counsel before he was appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals in 2014; Beier did not provide a reason for her recusal.

Senior Judge Michael Malone of Lawrence and Riley County District Court Judge David Stutzman have served in their place on the Supreme Court.

Justice Lee Johnson filed a separate opinion, agreeing with the majority that the local option budget provision is unconstitutional, but saying the court should have gone further by implementing the remedy that was previously ordered by a three-judge district court panel.

That panel called for repealing all of the changes that lawmakers made to the school funding formula last year and returning it to its pre-2015 provisions.

Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Wednesday for what is normally a brief ceremony to officially close out the 2016 session. And while they are expected to take up a few other issues before adjourning, it was not immediately clear whether they would try to address the court’s decision at that time.

No matter how lawmakers respond, the decision is sure to have political implications in the upcoming 2016 elections. Earlier this month, the Kansas Republican Party adopted a new plank in its party platform calling for four of the justices who are up for retention this year to be ousted.

Those include Beier, Chief Justice Lawton Nuss and Associate Justices Dan Biles and Marla Luckert.

Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick, of Stilwell, was quick to point that out in his statement responding to the decision.

“The court has yet again demonstrated it is the most political body in the state of Kansas,” he said. “Dumping the ruling at 5 p.m. the day before a long weekend and holding children hostage. This despite the fact that the legislature acted in good faith to equalize the record amounts of money going to schools. This court is planning to shut down schools over less than 1 percent of the total education budget. Frankly, I find their actions disgraceful and hope Kansas voters will remember this in November when deciding whether these Justices should be retained.”

In its earlier ruling in February, the court suggested the Legislature could cure the inequities by reinstating the old formula for local option budgets and fully funding it, which would have cost about $43 million in additional funding.

But lawmakers chose instead to reshuffle the money that they had already budgeted, taking some equalization aid away from wealthier districts and shifting it to poorer ones. But it also included a “hold harmless” clause that made sure the wealthier districts received larger block grants to make up for the loss of equalization aid.

Lawmakers had intended this year’s bill to be a “one-year fix” to the funding formula, which they plan to completely rewrite during the 2017 session.

House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs, of Kansas City, called on Republican leaders to do whatever is necessary to keep schools open this year.

“For years, Gov. Brownback and his Republican allies in the Legislature have refused to adequately fund our schools,” he said. “Today, the Supreme Court finally said enough is enough. Kansas school children deserve better. The Legislature should take whatever action is necessary to keep our schools open, something Democrats have been calling for all along.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Comments

Cille King 1 year, 2 months ago

Repeal all the 2012 and 2013 tax cuts, make it effective beginning July 1, 2016, and restore Kansas revenue in order to pay for schools, roads, bridges, state hospitals, Medicaid, and all the other state functions.

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

Are we surprised ?

The Republican Party are basically doing the bidding of the libertarians,......as a group of rented legislators and executors, who serve their masters interests idestroying state government by drowning it in debt or deliberately created income shortfalls .

Don't income tax me or my business ! Don't ask me to support society at any level ! Not the social safety net, not K-12 or Colleges, not Medicaid, not reasonable restrictions on damaging the environment, do away with Social Security so we can funnel your retirement funds into the next pension fund killer market bubble, created just for you, by us, who want to rob you blind and don't ask them to control slumlord landlords who are the real aliens amongst us from elsewhere with their unfit to rent properties .

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

The above posted before completed (?) all by itself .

Anyway, the libertarians don't like government........period.......because it is all about......THEMSELVES !!!

They resent the State Courts who stop them from acting out.........and they particularly resent the Federal Courts and Nixon's EPA, whom they see as big brother imposing something on themselves or as some kind of plot to make them "behave" in a socially acceptable manner ..

Looking at the continuing obstinance in the face of the states financial problems, there is only one logical conclusion that a rational person can come to..........that this is a deliberately created problem,.....that the Republicans want to have........ because it serves their Libertarians Masters purposes, of serving only themselves and their own selfish interests .

Does Liberty come without any responsibility.....as your brothers keeper ?

Well,.....not in " Libertarian Land " where powers' reward is excuse enough, by itself, to abuse society and the system of government who made their lifestyles possible to begin with .

Greg Cooper 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, Brownkoch, you've just engineered the biggest loss of jobs at any time in the history of Kansas. No school funding means no salaries means no purchasing power means loss of commerce means loss of taxes means....well, just what has happened during your reign, but much, much worse.

You, Sam, are a puppet whose strings are about to be cut. How do you like it now, buddy?

To the he legislature: you hold more blame than your lords and masters because you have the ability to overcome the Regressive agenda against our most vulnerable but choose instead to squash them. And for what? Nothing. Absolutely nothing other than your child-like, starry-eyed adoration of those who don't give a damn about your future or that of the rest of the state's citizens. Yours is the lower of the two, because you really do have free will and choose not to use it.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

Well, you simply do not understand our governor.........he DOES NOT WANTED EDUCATED VOTERS!!! Educated folks do not vote for fascist fools who destroy the economy, destroy the budget. Get with it folks, this governor and his cronies is the most destructive and damaging personage to appear in the political front in Kansas.

And now we see this impeding disaster brewing nationally with Donald Trump.

Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

I love it. The Supreme Court is playing hardball with these scoundrel.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually, Bob, they're playing by the rules. Rules are something the legislature does not understand. But, By golly, they're learning, now, aren't they?

Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

actually, in Kansas playing by the rules against those in power is hardball to most Kansans, who typically cower in the face of authority.

Alex Landazuri 1 year, 2 months ago

thank god someone is actually standing up the koch brothers

Charles Wolfe 1 year, 2 months ago

The solution to our state problems begin's in November. Anyone with a R by their name should start looking for a new job. There aren't many openings for failed Republicans. Maybe president Shrumpf will hire you for his cabinet, lol.

Kate Rogge 1 year, 2 months ago

If we don't vote to retain the four challenged Supreme Court justices in November, Brownback will appoint Koch creatures like Caleb Steagall, and control the Kansas Supreme Court. These justices, and the additional fourteen district judges targeted by the Kochs, are our State's last defense against being destroyed by two extraordinarily wealthy men who believe only the wealthy deserve to be educated. Or healthy. Or vote.

Luke Fawcett 1 year, 2 months ago

The sooner you get rid of BrownBag and his Teas the better off the state, country and world.

Gotta get rid of these guys

Gotta get rid of these guys by Luke Fawcett

Mike Marian 1 year, 2 months ago

Really, Ray Merrick complains about “Dumping the ruling at 5 p.m. the day before a long weekend and holding children hostage". I think the Kansas legislature are pretty much the kings and queens of late night dumping. At least the court announced their decision during business hours.

Bob Forer 1 year, 2 months ago

The Kansas Supreme Court always issues its opinions on Friday. I am sure they are very proud of this one, and if given the opportunity to buck tradition, would have issued it at a more opportune time to inflict maximum emotional distress on these right wing idiots.

I hope it ruined a long weekend for a couple of guys named Bob.

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

Not surprised that speaker Merrick was unhappy with anything that the Ks Supreme Court did or didn't do about school funding . Sour Grapes for his Libertarian Masters !

The do your own thing Libertarian Crowd ( at the expense of society ) is never happy with any court system that requires them to consider any others than $ wise themselves .

Merrick is one of the legislative architects of brownkochistan and he knows who really writes his politically aquired pay checks ( the two headed God of Koch ) who demands to be served with sacrifices of the public, on its' financial alter .

Steve Jacob 1 year, 2 months ago

Somehow, KU and KSU is looking at even more cuts. Not really any more accounts you can rob legally.

Larry Sturm 1 year, 2 months ago

Bypassing the constitution is not the way to change the school funding problem. The Koch brothers hold the strings to our Kansas government. That part of our political system needs to be changed.

George Glock 1 year, 2 months ago

There is a solution to this but the liberals don't want to part with their money. Just tax the Kansas SC and all registered dems enough to make up the difference. I know all the libs & dems will not agree but if you want to provide everybody with everything they need you will run out other peoples money.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 2 months ago

Nobody is talking about, or advocating, giving everybody everything they want, dingbat. We're talking about providing the people of Kansas that which the constitution (you know what that is, right?) mandates we provide.

As for you, false poster, if you had the nerve to state your opinion in public without resorting to a fake identity, your inanity would be taken quite a bit differently. Grow up, become an adult, and, if you really have an opinion that you want heard, give honestly and openly. Otherwise (as you will after today) go away.

Same to those of you who punched the like button. Why not just tell us in your own words what you think? It amazes me how people hide behind anonymity.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey Look everyone! Another New, single post person. (Hi Kevin)! Love your Buzzwords! I have a Glock, too. (Gen.4 G-17)

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

Hey George Glock...

All of you anti American Koch Rino's say the same thing over and over and over and over no matter what state. In fact it may on the list of "ALEC replies" that Newt Gingrich made available to the ALEC sheep.

How empty one must feel without a mind of your own.

Bob Smith 1 year, 2 months ago

"...say the same thing over and over and over and over..." Pot, meet kettle.

Paul R Getto 1 year, 2 months ago

Look for a special session to legalize Wild West charter schools and money to homeschools and religious schools. This worked for Alabama in the '60's.

Roger Dreiling 1 year, 2 months ago

I do not have a dog in this hunt, but closing schools is not in the best interests of the children/students.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 2 months ago

Funding some schools more than others isn't in the best interest either. Shuffling funding so it appears that you have increased funding, when in fact you didn't, isn't fair to the children. Forcing the governor and the legislature to do the job that is laid out in the Kansas constitution is in the best interest of these students and those in the future.

We had a system of funding before Brownback and crew came along that was as fair as you can get. But it was too complicated for their little, closed brains. And they couldn't reward the school districts they liked (read: districts that voted for them) and punish those they didn't like (districts that voted against them).

Also they want to make Kansas schools failure, like in other states. On the east coast, they think we are strange because we don't send kids to private schools, because there public schools are worse. Here in Kansas our public schools have always performed well. We are proud of our schools. People support our schools even when their children are grown.

Brownback doesn't get that. Brownback wants to force private schools down our throats, because it is against his religion to have an entity that is not making a monetary profit. But he underestimated Kansan's pride in their schools. That is why he is the most hated governor in the country.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 2 months ago

Roger, if you live in Kansas, you have a dog in this hunt. As I posted earlier, shutting down the schools is going to affect each and every Kansas resident in measurable ways. Perhaps you need to re-think how uninvolved you are.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 2 months ago

"But Gov. Sam Brownback was harshly critical of the decision."

“It is unfortunate that the Kansas Supreme Court has put at risk the education of Kansas students by threatening to close schools on June 30,” Brownback said. “The court is engaging in political brinkmanship with this ruling, and the cost will be borne by our children.”

“We will carefully consider the implications of the Court’s ruling and its disregard for the proper role of the Kansas Legislature,” he said.'

Well, Sam, it seems you got caught with your sticky fingers in the cookie jar. You are going to have a hard time with thinking people blaming the Supreme Court with "political brinksmanship" when you, yourself, started this whole ILLEGAL attempt at breaking the constitution and blackmailing the Court.

Your "disregard for the proper role of the Kansas Legislature" has brought you and yours to the level of criminals. How do you justify breaking the law? How do you justify your complete disregard for the children in our schools? Do you have a clue as to the "proper role" of the legislative and executive branches of government"?

The voters of the state will note this disregard. They will note the economic disaster you have intentionally brought about. And they will vote, Sam and the legislature. They will vote, and you will be crushed.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

"Repeal all the 2012 and 2013 tax cuts, make it effective beginning July 1, 2016, and restore Kansas revenue in order to pay for schools, roads, bridges, state hospitals, Medicaid, and all the other state functions."

The only fiscal responsible action that is suitable.

Then hold the governor,his administration and legislature in contempt of court and charge them accordingly. Negligence is by choice therefore no tax dollars can be issued to cover their legal bills.

Thank you.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

I kind of wish the North Carolina conservative party would go jump off a cliff then the Kansas conservatives would follow.

Of course if republicans were in office Kanas would not be in this mess. The ALEC anti American Party are nothing but criminals and setting bad examples for our children what with all of their lying and disregard for the constitution.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

Headline for tomorrow: \

"Kansas legislature accelerates and moves forward on laws to impeach Supreme Court Justices and install their own goons on the court to comply with their intentions".

Fascist elements in the legislature dismayed with the proper function of the court cannot possibly allow constitutional restrictions to impede their attempts to provide the Koch Industries Regime with all the support they need to obtain political contributions to the next election cycle to trash, bash and attack opposition candidates. They have great need to reinforce Kris Kobach's ongoing attempts to prevent voters who might not vote "properly" and keep them out of the political process in Kansas.

You read it here first!!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 year, 2 months ago

At the next election, you need to vote to retain all Supreme Court justices.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 2 months ago

How many voters has Kobach purged thus far? Surely we don't believe he stopped breaking the law.

Voters ORGANIZING A VOTING DAY PACKET might be a preventive measure which could include:

--- a birth certificate

--- a drivers license or state ID card

--- proof of voter registration etc etc etc.

--- Keep this packet close to protect your right to vote

Do it today in case it is discovered one or more of the above cannot be found.

Thomas Bryce Jr. 1 year, 2 months ago

I will vote to retain all Justices except Caleb Stegall especially considering how he was injected into the System.

Michael Kort 1 year, 2 months ago

Are you looking to send your favorite Ks State Senator, Ks. State Rep.or Governor a letter at the Kansas Capitol Building ?

Well, just incase you can't find the zip code for the Ks. Capitol Building, it just happens to be........."666".....12; ..........as a matter of fact, all Topeka Ks zip codes start with "666" .

I guess that no place deserves a "666" postal zip code more than the current Topeka Ks State Government .

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