December 19, 2014

District Court miscarries justice in school funding case

Call it a miscarriage of justice.
Kansas District Court members just made a determination they have zero authority to make. Three Shawnee District Court members, in a ruling announced on Jan. 11, determined that the Kansas Legislature must fund at least $4, 492 per pupil in order to provide a ‘suitable’ education. The justices also said in their opinion that legislators can not change the school finance formula in any way that would lower that amount.
In short, neither the funding of schools nor the formula which funds them is the job of judges.
Kansas school children should learn that the legislators hold the purse strings, but we have doubts that lesson is being taught in our schools. Otherwise, school officials would not be celebrating the decision last week that sets a ridiculous precedent – that of unelected justices determining state funding issues.
If districts honestly believe they are severely underfunded, they should take it to the people and their representatives.
It’s the people’s responsibility to make that decision and not the court’s. This is a basic principle of the American and Kansas system of governments.
School districts should not be able to sue their patrons for more money.
And if unfunded mandates are truly the cause of the funding issues, that should also be taken to the people.
But that’s not truly the problem. Instead, the problem is a broken and tired populace. We want our children well-educated, but we want them educated sensibly and frugally when necessary.
Frugality isn’t in the cards, however, when school districts can continually blame the state when they want more money rather than asking local patrons for funds.
Funding considerations for local school districts should be made locally – not in Topeka. And if that requires a change to the Kansas Constitution, the Kansas Legislature should do it.
Meanwhile, the state’s abusive courts need to be reworked to allow the people a greater say in which justices serve on our highest courts. Currently, the state’s bar association, or attorneys, select who is eligible for appointment to state courts.
This needs to change to allow our highest elected officials to appoint directly to the court, without input from the bar association.
Both of these issues, school funding and judicial appointment, will likely be major topics of discussion during the 2013 legislative session.
We only hope our legislators have the courage to make these dramatic, but needed, changes.

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