The GOP war on public education in the state courts


education_appleLike Arizona’s lawless Tea-Publican legislature, several state legislatures have been in court for their failure to adequately fund public education as required by their state constitutions.

For example, last August the Washington state Supreme Court held the state legislature in contempt for failure to adequately fund public education, and imposed a $100,000 per day fine to compel the legislature to comply with the law and the Court’s order. The Washington Post reported, A perfect education storm in Washington state:

The state legislature is racking up fines of $100,000 a day since the Washington State Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 13, 2015, that lawmakers have not been adequately funding public schools. Lawmakers were ordered in 2012 to fully fund education but have failed to do so, and the justices got tired of it, ordering up the hefty fines.  As the The Seattle Times reported:

Despite a record-setting 176-day session and a two-year budget agreement that pushed substantial new money into the K-12 system, the court said lawmakers had again failed to live up to what the state constitution calls the state’s “paramount” duty — amply funding schools.

And there is the court’s ruling on Sept. 4, 2015, declaring the state’s charter school law unconstitutional. The law was passed by voters in 2012 — after three earlier attempts failed — with the help of significant financial support from wealthy philanthropists, including Bill Gates. [By a 6-3 decision, they determined that Washington State’s charter school law was unconstitutional.] The Supreme Court justices decided that state education funding could not be used for charter schools because charter schools are not operated by elected boards and, therefore, not “common schools.”

The Washington state legislature still has not complied with the court order and continues to rack up daily fines, while focusing instead on how to steer public money to charter schools that somehow will meet constitutional muster with the state Supreme Court. Washington State: Whose Children Matter Most? | Diane Ravitch’s Blog (January 22, 2016):

First, the highest state court ordered the legislature to fund the schools fairly. For every day the legislature fails to do so, it pays a fine of $100,000. This affects 1,070,000 children.

Second, the court ruled that charter schools are not public schools and cannot receive public funding. This was a direct rebuff to Bill Gates, who lives in Seattle and spent millions on a referendum supporting charters that won by less than 1%. He and his friends want the legislature to bypass the court ruling so charters can get public money. This affects 1,000 children.

Which issue do you think the legislature acted on?

The one that mattered to Bill Gates and 1,000 students, of course.

The State Senate voted 27-20 in favor of a “fix” that allows charters to get public funding that helps 1,000 children. The legislature has done nothing to increase the fair, equitable funding of 1,070,000 children.

Note: The Washington legislature is nearly equally divided along partisan lines, with 25 (R) and 24 (D) in the Senate, and 50 (D) and 47 (R) in the House, with one vacancy.

Like our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor in Arizona who threatened to manufacture a “constitutional crisis” over Prop. 301 inflation adjustment funding for school districts by willfully refusing to comply with a lawful judgment of the court and the laws and constitution of Arizona — forcing the court to hold them in contempt and to impose fines to compel compliance with its lawful orders, just like the Washington state Supreme Court has done — Washington state legislative Republicans want to fight the state Supreme Court over the daily fines it is imposing for not complying with the McCleary ruling on education. Some GOP senators want to fight state Supreme Court over daily fines.

Now comes the state of Kansas, a cautionary tale for the state of Arizona because our radical extremist Tea-Publican legislatures are so similar in their ideological bent. Court Gives Deadline to Fix Kansas School Financing:

DorothyThe Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday gave the state until June 30 to fix its system of financing public schools, or face a court-ordered shutdown before the next school year begins.

Rather than improve the way it doled out state money, the court ruled, the Republican-controlled Legislature has failed to cure inequities between rich and poor school districts.

“The legislature’s unsuccessful attempts to equitably, i.e., fairly, allocate resources among the school districts not only creates uncertainty in planning the 2016-2017 school year but also has the potential to interrupt the operation of Kansas’ public schools,” the court said.

The decision is the latest blow to Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and the state Legislature, which will probably have to find tens of millions of dollars in its budget for additional education funding.

Kansas is already facing deep fiscal woes in the wake of Mr. Brownback’s decision to cut taxes, which he predicted would help bolster the state economy. Revenue has fallen short of projections and he and lawmakers are scrambling to fill a roughly $200 million budget gap before the close of the session.

John S. Robb, a lawyer for the school districts and parents who are suing the state, estimated that the Legislature would have to add $73 million to the system to satisfy the court.

The Legislature’s “chosen path during the 2016 session will ultimately determine whether Kansas students will be treated fairly and the schoolhouse doors will be open to them in August,” the ruling said.

Democrats and moderate Republicans say that the failure to provide enough money for schools is more proof that Mr. Brownback’s tax-cutting experiment has failed.

“It really came down to our Supreme Court saying, once again, that the state has not done enough to address the inequities in our finance system,” Mark Tallman, a lobbyist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, said in an interview. “We hope that the Legislature will respond to the court in a timely fashion.”

In Topeka, the state capital, Republican lawmakers accused the court of judicial overreach.

“The court has once again demonstrated no misgivings on interjecting itself in legislative proceedings and holding Kansas taxpayers and Kansas schoolchildren hostage,” Ray Merrick, the Republican speaker of the House, said in a statement.

* * *

The ruling extends a longstanding battle in Kansas over public education. A similar showdown between the Legislature and the Kansas Supreme Court in 2005 resulted in lawmakers agreeing to increase per-pupil spending in schools, but the additional funding stopped amid the national financial crisis.

In 2014, in response to a lawsuit arguing that schools were underfunded, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature was obligated to equitably fund school districts. The Legislature passed a new law, but fearing that the costs had run too high, eventually cut back on aid that was intended to go to the poorer districts.

Their temporary solution was to pass a bill that replaced a previous formula with one that used block grants to allocate funds. Supporters of block grants say that they give school districts flexibility to spend where they need it most. But the plan was immediately criticized by education advocates for essentially cutting money intended for poorer districts.

Tom Burroughs, the House minority leader, said in a statement that Mr. Brownback and his allies were guilty of mismanaging the state. But “rather than take responsibility for our state’s stagnant economy and self-inflicted budget crisis, Republicans chose to blame public education,” he said.

John S. Robb, a lawyer for the school districts and parents who are suing the state, said the ruling was “a great day for the kids in Kansas.”

“The court keeps telling the Legislature to follow the Constitution, and the Legislature keeps wiggling out of it,” he said. “And now the court has put an absolute line in the sand.”

Unfortunately, I fully expect Governor Brownback and his lawless Tea-Publican legislature in Kansas to defy the Court’s order, just as has occurred in the state of Washington, manufacturing a “constitutional crisis” over public education with the courts in that state.

We are assured by our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor in Arizona that if the settlement of Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey, i.e., Prop. 123 in the Special Election in May does not pass, there is no “Plan B.”

The case will go back to court, where a judgment on the back payment portion of the restitution owed by the state legislature for its theft of school district funds will be entered, and then the judgments will be appealed all the way up to the state Supreme Court, where Governor Ducey has already installed a “Kochtopus” attorney from the Goldwater Institute — Clint Bolick — on the bench who will return the favor by ruling in favor of our lawless Tea-Publican legislature and governor (whether Bolick can bring along a majority of the other judges remains to be seen).

“Plan A” should always have been compliance with the laws and the constitution of this state, and compliance with lawful court orders and judgments. That’s what any citizen of this state is expected, indeed compelled, to do.

Authoritarian Tea-Publicans, however, deem themselves to be above the law and to not be answerable to the courts, the law, or to the citizens of this state.

There is no justifiable reason to believe that these reprobates will comply with Prop. 123, should the spirit move them.

As long as the voters of this state continue to return these lawless reprobates to office by failing to turn out to vote, they will continue to undermine our constitutional form of government and the rule of law and we will drift into authoritarian tyranny.

Only you the voters can end this long-standing GOP culture of political corruption in Arizona. Throw these Tea-Publican reprobates out of office. The future of this state depends on you.


  1. The underlying assumption is that money has consequences for students. That assumes some positive correlation between spending and value creation in education that simply does not exists. Think of New York City. They went from spending 12 billion in one school district to spending 23 billion in just a few short years. One school district with a student count almost identical to that of all of Arizona. There was no increase in their academic results. They managed to increase graduation rates by giving any warm body a diploma but those students quickly crashed and burned in college.

    Think of Kansas City in the 1980s. The federal judge told the schools “Let your dreams run wild, I will fund them.” Billions were spent to no good end. Segregation became more severe, black test scores did not increase.

    Think of Tucson Unified School district and their next door neighbor, Vail. TUSD hugely outspends Vail on a per student and per classroom basis. Yet, the student growth percentiles of Vail (an apples to apples comparison which washes out demographics) are decisively higher and the percentage of parents rating their child’s school excellent is also hugely higher, almost double.

    These two case studies are part of a larger universe of theoretical work showing no correlation between spending and outcomes.

    • Hard to take anything Falcon9 says seriously, cherry picker that he is.

      In spite of David Stockman’s admission in 1981 (read that again, 1981!!!!) that “trickle down economics” was just a trick to get poor people to vote for tax cuts for rich folks, he still rants on about supply side.

      In spite of the recent discovery that Exxon knew in the late 1970’s that climate change was happening, and that burning fossil fuels (meaning their product) was to blame, he still recites the fossil fuel industry talking points about the Big Global Warming Hoax.

      Exxon has been exposed as spending 10’s of millions of dollars on anti-climate change PR since 1977, knowing it was a lie, and with Johnny at least, they got their money’s worth.

      In spite of reciting thoroughly discredited statistics about race and schools, he shamelessly posts on the very internets that ruined his career. More talking points and PR from the folks who want to privatize schools (and get at my tax money to buy bigger yachts).

      Johnny, you need to turn off Glenn Beck and go learn some real science. And it’s a shame that someone needs to tell you that, given your previous position in education.

    • Then we don’t need the back donor, money laundering, straw party hocus pocus, vouchers in this State, and we don’t need tax credits for donations, since throwing tax money at private, unaccountable, private schools is a waste.

  2. It will be interesting to see where this goes. The outside groups that push these strategies are adjusting from state to state as they each event decides the actions in the next state. There was never going to be a plan “B” because the plan “B” was to get Bolick on the court. If they don’t get what they want then the plan “C” is to stack the court.

    I am curious as to if this type of constitutional mayhem has taken place in a state during our nations history and what was the resulting outcome. To a degree it has occcured during the civil rights era and the civil war, but those were more fedral challenges.

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