Archive for Tuesday, November 7, 2017

GOP leaders authorize $400K for school finance attorneys, consultant

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, right, questions Sen. Jim Denning, the Republican leader, about hiring an outside consultant to advise the Legislature on school finance during a meeting Tuesday of the Legislative Coordinating Council.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, right, questions Sen. Jim Denning, the Republican leader, about hiring an outside consultant to advise the Legislature on school finance during a meeting Tuesday of the Legislative Coordinating Council.

November 7, 2017, 4:14 p.m. Updated November 7, 2017, 5:28 p.m.


— Republican leaders in the Kansas Legislature agreed Tuesday to spend $400,000 on outside attorneys and consultants to advise them on how to respond to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said current funding for public education is inadequate and unconstitutional.

The seven-member Legislative Coordinating Council, made up of the top Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers, voted along straight party lines to authorize each chamber to spend $100,000 hiring its own attorney for legal advice and $200,000 to hire an outside consultant who will update studies on how much money the state should be spending to fund public schools.

The vote came just eight days after an identical motion failed in the LCC. The difference Tuesday was that House Majority Leader Don Hineman, R-Dighton, changed his vote from no to yes, providing the necessary fifth vote needed for passage.

Senate leaders, for their part, have already decided who they want for their attorney: former Sen. Jeff King, who advised both chambers during the 2017 session and helped present arguments that the Supreme Court eventually rejected. But House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, who now has authority to name the House’s attorney, so far has not said who he wants to hire, but when he does, that decision will have to be approved by the full LCC.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, offered the motions but did not say why he thought it was necessary for the House and Senate to have separate attorneys. House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said the idea was already prompting suspicion.

“The name that comes to my mind that would be highly polarizing and very difficult to bring together a coalition that passes a bill would be former Speaker (Mike) O’Neal, who has been very involved in litigation in school finance,” Ward said.

Ryckman, however, said he has not made a decision.

“His name has not come up to us, but we’re not going to play a game of who we will not hire,” Ryckman said.

Meanwhile, Denning said he interpreted the Supreme Court’s Oct. 2 decision as strongly suggesting the Legislature do so when it wrote, “the State certainly will have ample opportunity for any sufficient studies it may wish to have conducted and then legislatively considered.”

Ward, however, suggested it would be easier and cheaper to use the Legislature’s own in-house staff, the Legislative Post Audit Division, to update the cost study it performed in 2006 during the previous school funding lawsuit.

“I really think the support person, or what you’re calling an expert, is what the court was talking about when it said, ‘show your work,’” Ward said. “I’m concerned that we’re going to start all over and not use the resources that we already have.”

But Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said she believes the court has lost faith in the Legislature’s staff.

“In reading the latest opinion, the court rejected the work of our bipartisan staff,” she said. “And we relied very heavily in documenting our proceedings and in verifying our numbers on our bipartisan staff. And for the first time, the court in that ruling said it was unacceptable. So that’s what spurred the need for us to hire some outside expert witnesses, was their statement and their ruling that they absolutely have no trust in our staff.”

That appeared to be a reference to a portion of the opinion that rejected something called a “successful schools model,” a statistical study performed by the Legislative Research Department, under Denning’s direction, that was used to justify the per-pupil funding contained in the school finance bill lawmakers passed last year. The court rejected that as being insufficient, largely because it was only a four-page memo that failed to identify much of the data that was used.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, who came to observe Tuesday’s meeting, faulted the Senate and the state’s legal team for even presenting that study to the court.

“The legal defense relied on a Senate concept called a successful schools model that we never entertained on the House side, and the entire case was built around a four-page memo,” she said.

Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, who also observed the meeting, criticized the LCC’s action, particularly its decision to rehire King as an attorney for the Senate.

“He lost the last case, so why would we want to send back the same attorney with the same legal background and legal mind to represent us this time?” Kelly said. “I also don’t see the need for a House lawyer and a Senate lawyer when this is a joint bill ... I find this a complete and serious waste of money. I would much rather just put this toward solving the school finance problem rather than these vacant efforts to win a case when no one thinks we can win. The court has spoken.”


Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

This is called stonewalling and reckless use of tax dollars.

Calvin Anders 7 months, 1 week ago

Wow, what a bunch of pernicious weasels. They would rather spend our money on figuring out how to avoid funding schools than taking responsibility and spend the money on our children. It takes a certain kind of selfish, tone-deaf ideological myopia to buy into this kind of stupidity. I do hope voters are keeping score. We, as a state, elected these weasels, so we bear responsibility. But we also have the power to go to the polls for the next election, and remember this kind of world class idiocy. For all this talk of draining the swamp on the national level, it seems Kansas has its own swamp problem right here in Topeka. And our level of hypocrisy, corruption and good old boy shenanigans is every bit as horrible as it is in DC.

Jeremy Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

I have to agree with your statement that Topeka is a swamp. However, it is all the liberals and mod Republicans who are to blame. You all elected these people to fix the education funding issue and what did they do? They raised your taxes and did not adequately fund the schools because they were so happy to spend the money elsewhere. Before listening to this very biased article and pointing fingers you should be looking in the mirror. Just remember that last year all of you went on a crusade to take out the "radical" conservatives and at the end of the session you ended up with the same problems. To me, the only common denominator here are the tax and spend legislators who got elected by promising more money for the schools and yet they failed you.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 months, 1 week ago

Seriously? Seriously? We have had 7 years of your buddy Brownback, and it's going to take a while to turn things around. You are either blind, or one of the few people who profited from Brownback's experiment. Brownback had plenty of time to cut spending. Why didn't he? Because he couldn't. Our state was always run for the most part by efficient people, so there was no where to cut and maintain services. Now our schools are underfunded, hospitals have closed, mental health centers have closed, law enforcement has suffered.

I really wish you anarchists, government hating libertarians would go buy an island and create your libertarian paradise. You can ban all people with disabilities, and as soon as someone can't carry their own weight you can drown them or kick them off the island. It could be the true dog eat dog world you would love to create. But, remember, if you get cancer, and can't work, you have to leave away willingly, so you won't be a burden to your "paradise". And please don't send your children here to be educated.

Jeremy Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

What needs to be turned around? And there was a bill on the Senate floor this past session that would have balanced the budget without a single tax increase. So how would that be possible if there is no room to cut?

I do not know where you get libertarian from. They are pro choice, pro gay marriage, and pro marijuana, that actually sounds more like a liberal hippie such as yourself than a good conservative. Nothing about you says you have the ability to pull your own weight so I can see why you are for handouts.

Lastly, I would never send my children to your liberal schools where they prioritize trans rights over going and studying. They do not even teach the kids how to succeed in life anymore. They merely teach them to throw a fit until they get their way.

Bob Summers 7 months, 1 week ago

Gimme a break. Like spending more money is going to make the teachers teach better? Harder?

Break the worldwide top twenty in reading? Top twenty in math? Top twenty in science?

What a joke.

Calvin Anders 7 months, 1 week ago

Again, Bob, it's not that huge amounts of cash will guarantee superior results, but significant under-funding will guarantee failure. The Court has ruled that the state's current funding level is so woefully inadequate that is unconstitutionally low. They have determined that the system cannot function properly at current funding levels. Let's get them back to a constitutional bare minimum and then debate whether more money will help. Or, if the Court doesn't have the stones to actually enforce their findings, we can let the Legislature spend our money on lawyers and let our children suffer. But the jackals in the Legislature are continuing to prove what evil, stupid, greedy animals they are.

Jeremy Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

What exactly is the Constitutional bare minimum? Maybe if the courts would ever give a number then it would make it easier for the legislature to decide how to achieve that number. It is like me telling you to fix my car but I am not going to tell you what is wrong with it. Would it not be easier for me to give you the problem and location?

Also, the school districts have used taxpayer dollars to hire lawyers for their side of the case. Why when it's a Republican move it is evil but when the school districts do the same thing then they are heroes?

Calvin Anders 7 months, 1 week ago

The thing is, Jeremy, the Legislature was working from a funding model that everyone seems to agree would satisfy the Court before Brownie and the "radical" conservatives in the Legislature decided to gut education funding earlier in Brownie's tenure. So, the Legislature has a model of a reasonable funding level. It exists. But rather than return to that model, the jackals continue to propose ridiculously under funded plans. And, to your "clever" point about school district lawyers, the districts get to be heroes by virtue of their fighting on behalf of children's opportunity for adequately funded education and based on the fact that their position that the Legislature was illegally starving them out was vindicated repeatedly by the Kansas Supreme Court. It's not rocket science.

Jeremy Smith 7 months, 1 week ago

Funny how you completely avoided my question of what is the minimum per Kansas Constitution. That is okay, it was more rhetorical as you do not know the answer and neither does anyone else.

Also, we did return to the old system that you think so highly of and it still was not good enough for the liberals.

Calvin Anders 7 months, 1 week ago

We returned to the distribution method previously observed. The Legislature did not fund it at the same level per student as before. And it was not good enough for the Court. The issue for the Legislature right now is not the "liberals", it's the Supreme Court. The Legislature doesn't think they have to bother making excuses for betraying the voters, but when they repeatedly flaunt the Court, they have to hire some high dollar lawyers to help them put on a dog and pony show.

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

Where Did Public Education Money Go?

BTW does the media or any investigative body know what has happened to the dollars for public education?

How did they get spent?

Have public education tax dollars been spent on corporate subsidies?

Shouldn't public education dollars still be in the bank?

Richard Heckler 7 months, 1 week ago

The right wing radical party lost big across the USA Tuesday as some news sources are showing. Is Trump the only problem? Hardly!

Can’t blame only Trump it’s the whole damn party and has been the problem going on 38 years.

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