Kicking the can
Published on -3/9/2014, 5:44 PM
Despite certain state officials declaring win-win or some happy middle ground in the Kansas Supreme Court's decision Friday about public school finance, we believe all that happened was a delay in the inevitable showdown about who's in charge.
The state's highest court did rule the Legislature was acting unconstitutional when it comes to adequately funding K-12 schools, but did not stipulate what amount the base aid per pupil should be. Instead, that will be left to the same lower court that already has ruled the state is shortchanging districts at least $440 million. As that figure was based on a law passed by the Legislature, there is no reason to believe the number will decrease any.
Neither the governor nor any legislators should expect the judicial branch to arrive at any other conclusion. But they don't waste their breath bemoaning a ruling that doesn't state it specifically yet.
Lawmakers in the majority Republican Party won't waste any time either attempting to find more money to adequately fund the schools. They believe they're being overly generous already. There will be no legislation suggesting a repeal of the income tax cuts that is the source of GOP funding woes.
Instead, they can concentrate their efforts for the rest of this session attempting to undermine the forthcoming lower court ruling. Watch for bills to change the definition of base aid per pupil, totally alter the funding formula itself, redefine the term "suitable" in the state Constitution, shift accounting on local option budgets so the state gets more credit for support without spending any more money, strip the courts of their ability to provide oversight on this issue, or even change the way Supreme Court justices are selected. Absent any of these, and we simply might witness lawmakers simply ignoring whatever the court comes up with.
Gov. Sam Brownback is calling the shots, and already he's helped rid the Legislature of moderates who might challenge his authority. This case is his opportunity to attempt a takeover of the judicial branch as well. Nothing as silly as a constitution will prevent the governor from implementing his roadmap and leading his own renaissance.
As local school districts continue to be starved from decision-makers in Topeka, we would encourage area residents to be aware where the schools' problems originate.
The disdain on display for everyday Kansans and their school-aged children is unnecessary, and pitiful. Even the most fiscally conservative lawmaker should be able to articulate reasons why they don't believe schools need any more money, or even the same. Currently, they're all hiding behind the governor's self-imposed poor-mouth story or the fairy tale about an expanding economy that will provide untold riches.
Neither are to be believed -- or tolerated.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry