Contributed by Kansas Taxpayers Network
By Karl Peterjohn
There might not be funds for public school classrooms but for 15 Kansas school districts there is money for financing lawsuits. Since the 1998-99 school year, $2,095,020 has been spent in public funds to pay for the school finance litigation and lawsuit.
This outrage is a classic case of the school districts biting the state’s hand that fed the 300 Kansas school districts with over $2.7 billion in state funds. Of course, the state does not have any money that it has not taken from taxpayers so you and I pay our taxes to the schools and to the state paying for both the plaintiffs and defendants in this legal battle.
A portion of that money is taken by these school districts and then used to sue for more spending that will require higher taxes. Sadly, Kansas already has the highest property taxes on business in our five state region as well as the second highest taxes on homeowners too so this litigation worsens our tax climate.
This is not a new event. The school finance lawsuits stretch back into the late 1980’s. The lead attorney on the most recent lawsuit, Alan Rupe, has been involved in all of these cases going back to the 1980’s. The 15 school districts misusing their tax funds to finance these lawsuits are led by the Salina and Dodge City public schools. The other school districts financing this litigation are: Arkansas City, Augusta, Derby, El Dorado, Emporia, Fort Scott, Great Bend, Hays, Independence, Leavenworth, Manhattan, Newton, and Winfield (For a listing of the tax dollars spent for these lawsuits between 1998-to-2005 see www.kansastaxpayers.com).
If the legislative conservatives were serious about addressing the litigation crisis in Kansas public schools these expenditures would be stopped. This misuse of tax funds for trial attorneys should stop immediately. Any school finance legislation passed by the Kansas legislature that does not address this abuse of taxpayer funds is a disgrace.
Last year the Topeka public schools faced a financial scandal when it was revealed that roughly $1/2 million had been paid to pay fraudulent checks in central Asia. The schools had such lax financial controls that numerous bogus checks got paid. The schools continued to operate despite this long distance financial flim-flam. Sadly, the mainstream Kansas press outside of Topeka has largely ignored this scandal and treated it as an isolated event.
This is another indication that there are plenty of funds available for financing Kansas public schools. The latest federal data indicate that Kansans, despite having lower than average incomes, are paying substantially more than the national average for our public schools. Kansans are paying more per pupil than for public schools in our neighboring states too. Higher expenditures mean higher taxes. Being a high tax state is one of the reasons that Kansas has suffered the largest reduction in private sector jobs during this century according to federal data.
If the school districts can continue to litigate their way to higher taxes and spending by misusing tax dollars, the future of this state will be grim. Lawsuits promoting higher government spending and higher taxes will drive jobs and businesses to taxpayer friendlier states.