(Update) Kansas is a cautionary tale for Arizona: state Supreme Court rules education funding is unconstitutionally low

Following up on an earlier post in which the right-wing Brownbackistan fna Kansas state legislature passed an income tax increase to balance the state budget after the devastating effects of Governor Sam Bownback’s “trickle down” tax cut utopia experiment, Kansas is a cautionary tale for Arizona: pigs do fly!, Governor Brownback made his choice to veto the tax increase.

As I predicted, there were enough Tea-Publican anti-tax “trickle down” true believer zealots in the legislature to sustain the governor’s veto. Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax policies survive — barely — after Kansas Senate vote: “Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature tax policy was saved by three votes as the Kansas Senate fell short Wednesday of overriding his veto on a bill that would have generated $1 billion over two years.” “[M]any lawmakers in the House remain committed to rolling back Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts, which they blame for the state’s fiscal hole, and it could take months before they achieve a compromise.”

It is easy to imagine our Koch-bot Governor Doug Ducey and the anti-tax zealots in our lawless Tea-Publican legislature doing the same thing. Rather than raise taxes and reject the dogma of their “trickle down” tax faith, they would rather fiddle while Rome Arizona burns.

Now Kansas — as very well Arizona may face  from a future lawsuit — has another budget-busting disaster on its hands. Kansas Supreme Court Says State Education Spending Is Too Low:

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the state’s spending on public education was unconstitutionally low, dealing a new blow to Gov. Sam Brownback, who is facing a rebellion from his own Republican Party over his trademark tax-cutting doctrine.

In a unanimous ruling, the court said black, Hispanic and poor students were especially harmed by the lack of funding, pointing to lagging test scores and graduation rates. The justices set a June 30 deadline for lawmakers to pass a new constitutional funding formula, sending them scrambling to find more money to pay for a solution.

This is the second time in about a year that Kansas’ highest court has ruled against the state’s approach to paying for schools, just as Mr. Brownback finds himself wrestling with growing budget deficits and as his relations with fellow Republicans have deteriorated to new lows.

Gov. Brownback, who has made cutting taxes and shrinking government the centerpiece of his administration since taking office in 2011, championed the largest tax cuts in state history, turning Kansas into a national testing ground for his staunchly conservative philosophy. But the state has since struggled with gaping deficits, and patience has run thin, even among some former allies.

Just last month, the Republican-dominated Legislature approved a tax increase that would have raised more than $1 billion to help narrow the budget gap — a bold rejection of Mr. Brownback’s vision. In the end, the governor vetoed the measure, and he barely survived an override attempt. The school funding ruling now adds yet another layer of fiscal trouble for Kansas and political tumult for Mr. Brownback.

“Either the governor will have to bend, or we have to get enough votes in the House and Senate to override him,” Dinah Sykes, a Republican state senator, said, noting that lawmakers will have to get to work immediately to find money in the budget to satisfy the court’s requirements. “I thought that the tax plan that we put on his desk that was vetoed, I thought that was a compromise,” Ms. Sykes said.

* * *

The court did not specify how much more money was needed for the state’s schools, but finding any could prove difficult. Current budget deficits reach into the hundreds of millions.

“I think there’s a clear supermajority of legislators that want to move away from Brownback economics and the failed tax experiments,” said State Representative Jim Ward, the Democratic leader in the Kansas House. “Now the school decision expedites the importance of getting that done sooner rather than later.”

* * *

School funding consumes about half of Kansas’ budget, and its political salience cuts across party lines. Kansas prides itself on its public schools, and, in many small towns, the high school serves as a community anchor. The right to a suitably funded education is enshrined in the state Constitution [as it is in Arizona].

The current lawsuit was prompted by a slide in education financing that began after the recession under Mr. Brownback’s predecessor as governor, Mark V. Parkinson, a Democrat.

But the school funding mechanism has been litigated in Kansas courts for years, and there are sharp regional distinctions in how the issue is viewed. In the affluent Kansas City suburbs, where test scores are high, many want to preserve special taxes that benefit their local school districts. In rural and urban parts of the state, where incomes are lower and academic performance sometimes lags, plans to provide more per-student funding for minorities and poor students have greater resonance.

* * *

In its ruling, the court detailed statistics that showed African-American and Hispanic students, as well as poor students and those learning the English language, lagging behind their peers academically.

Cynthia Lane, the superintendent of public schools in Kansas City, Kan., where more than 80 percent of students come from low-income households and qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, said lawmakers needed to make special provisions for disadvantaged children in the new funding plan.

“For a decade, we have been cutting support — we have been offering less tutoring, less support, less enrichment,” said Dr. Lane, whose school district was one of the four plaintiffs in the case before the Supreme Court. “So this ruling today gives me great hope that we can start talking about our aspirations, not just worrying about protecting where we are.”

James E. Ryan, the dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, said that courts in school finance cases frequently order state legislatures to come up with funding formulas that are fair — and Kansas was no exception.

“What you see in Kansas you see in states across the country,” he said. “Namely, that there is an achievement gap between poorer kids and more well-off kids, and between white students and students of color.”

Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said he was pleased with the court’s ruling and hopeful that it would result in more resources in schools. He also said the ruling was an indication that the political winds in Kansas had shifted against Mr. Brownback, particularly with a more moderate Legislature voted into office in November, when Democrats gained 13 seats.

“I do think that this Legislature is much more interested in funding education,” Mr. Tallman said. “I think the election results suggest that voters are seeing problems with our funding system that they want to address.”

For now, Mr. Brownback has shown a willingness to use a veto pen, leaving it uncertain whether lawmakers can agree on a new school funding plan by the June deadline, and whether they can raise enough revenue to support it.

“You have enormous political will in Kansas to make the changes necessary,” Mr. Ward, the Democratic lawmaker, said, “and any politician obstructing that does it at their own peril.”

This last sentiment applies to Arizona as well. Governor Ducey promised that Prop. 123 was just the “first step” to more public education funding, and we are still waiting to see the follow-through for more public education funding. “Any politician obstructing that does so at their own peril.”

4 Responses to (Update) Kansas is a cautionary tale for Arizona: state Supreme Court rules education funding is unconstitutionally low

  1. Concerned Citizen

    Mr. Huppenthal, In seeking the truth — ALL students should be taught our real history, then they would, along with their parents understand where we find ourselves today. Why isn’t our real history taught in our public schools?

    Those with two languages (bi-lingual) are sought out by businesses, health care and communication industries. Your narrow view, shared by your cronies (’50’s era old white men) has held Arizona back in the 19th century. Big government = Arizona with it’s hands out for federal dollars for prisons, child protective/kidnapping/family court $$$’s, infrastructure and more — with OUR tax dollars.

    Arizona needs to move forward into a better place in the 21st century which demands (protestors across the state and the nation) a more inclusive society.

    Stop tearing innocent families apart. You reap what you sow. You and your political cronies are their for yourselves first and to hell with the rest. This you have all made yourselves crystal clear. And now – leaving nothing for the rest of Arizona’s people. Shameful. Who and what do YOU (the Bush supposedly “compassionate Christians” pray for in church? Certainly not the people suffering in Arizona, with the wealthiest people, luxury communities, luxury resorts and spas, and cost prohibitive sporting events, not meant for anyone but the deathliest. Address Arizona’s two-class society and how it got there — the real truth.

    • Concerned Citizen

      correction (auto-fill): “Certainly not the people suffering in Arizona, SEPARATE AND HIDDEN FROM the wealthiest people, luxury communities, luxury resorts and spas, and cost prohibitive sporting events, not meant for anyone but the WEALTHIEST. Address Arizona’s two-class society and how it got there — the real truth. Learned the hardway — fooled by the business, chamber and tourist brochures and PR materials.

  2. John Huppenthal

    Wyoming funds its education system at over $16,000 per student as compared to Arizona at less than $9,000 per student.

    Our white 8th grade students outscore their white students in math 294 to 290.

    Our Hispanic students tie their Hispanics 273 to 273.

    If they had any Blacks in Wyoming, our Black students would outscore them because our Black students outscored every state with enough Black students to put up a score.

    That’s what increasing education funding by a hundred percent give you – nothing. That’s why there is no correlation between spending and outcomes – because there isn’t.

    In order to have a deeper conversation about education, a much deeper conversation, you have to ask Why? You know, the old thing, “the truth will set you free?”

    • Concerned Citizen

      Mr. Huppenthal, In seeking the truth — ALL students should be taught our real history, then they would, along with their parents understand where we find ourselves today. Why isn’t our real history taught in our public schools?

      Those with two languages (bi-lingual) are sought out by businesses, health care and communication industries. Your narrow view, shared by your cronies (’50’s era old white men) has held Arizona back in the 19th century. Big government = Arizona with it’s hands out for federal dollars for prisons, child protective/kidnapping/family court $$$’s, infrastructure and more — with OUR tax dollars.

      Arizona needs to move forward into a better place in the 21st century which demands (protestors across the state and the nation) a more inclusive society.

      Stop tearing innocent families apart. You reap what you sow. You and your political cronies are their for yourselves first and to hell with the rest. This you have all made yourselves crystal clear. And now – leaving nothing for the rest of Arizona’s people. Shameful.

      Who and what do YOU (the Bush supposedly “compassionate Christians” pray for in church? Certainly not the people suffering in Arizona, separated and hidden from the wealthiest people, luxury communities, luxury resorts and spas, tourists and cost prohibitive sporting events, not meant for anyone but the weathliest. Address Arizona’s two-class society and how it got there — the real truth. Learned the hard way. Fooled by the tourist, chamber, developer/builder brochures and PR materials.