Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session

Americans for Prosperity Statement on the Current Special Session
June 29, 2005

“Americans for Prosperity — Kansas is pleased that both legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius have ruled out tax increases on Kansas families and businesses as a way to meet the recent Supreme Court ruling.

The tax burden on Kansans is already too high and combined with the private sector job losses it is clear that a tax increase would be not in the long term interests of our state. After the misguided tax increase effort of 2004 and the initial call in some quarters this year for a tax increase it is positive to see that legislative leaders and Governor Sebelius and legislative leaders have realized the need to set a new course.

We want to thank the literally thousands of Kansas citizens from across our state and from all walks of life who have called, written and met with their elected leaders to demand more efficient government, relief from higher taxes and a return to the entrepreneurial spirit that has made Kansas so great. These grassroots activists — many of whom are AFP-Kansas members — are helping bring a new political culture to our state.

As our elected leaders decide how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision requiring hundreds-of-millions of dollars in new education spending AFP-Kansas encourages them to consider ways to improve education results with forward-looking reforms. Like the vast majority of Kansans, we have supported needed funds for education. As a massive new infusion of tax dollars for education is considered, now is the time to make sure that Kansas’ children are receiving the full benefits of this money. That means actively looking for ways to get more dollars directly into classrooms instead of seeing them wasted on bureaucracy, giving parents greater input into their children’s education, and making sure that every child is given the very best opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”

Study after study has shown that spending more money does not increase the quality of education. Our focus needs to be on improving education for Kansas students, not on building a large bureaucracy that siphons money from the classroom.

We also applaud the efforts of those legislators pushing the Constitutional Amendment that clarifies the role of the courts vs.. the legislature in how taxes are levied and public funds are spent. The passage of this amendment will ensure that the public’s voice on spending and tax issues is not overruled by judges that face little public accountability and virtually no public input in their selection.

Report from Topeka, June 30, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.


The Kansas house passed on a 64-to-59 vote a school spending plan that is contingent on the court not removing any parts of this plan and the voters getting their hands on a constitutional amendment to reaffirm the legislature’s fiscal authority. This bill, house substitute for SB 3 goes to the senate for either concurrence or conference committee.

The house is scheduled to take up a constitutional amendment but that won’t occur until 2 PM at the earliest. The senate will meet at 2 PM.

It will take at least 4-to-6 house Democrats to vote for a constitutional amendment to offset the Republicans who have been voting against a constitutional amendment in this 125 member body. There are 84 votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Two have been discussed.

The house vote is good news in the constitutional battle but it is not decisive by a long shot. If the constitutional amendment(s) is (are) passed and the senate concurs on this bill this special session could end today with this as a response to an overbearing court and a reassertion of legislative powers. However, the senate could easily decide not to concur and a variety of events could then take place.

Report from Topeka, June 29, 2005 (afternoon edition)

A second report for today from Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network.


The senate Republicans have weighed in and made a significant impact today. A majority of the GOP Senate caucus met with their leadership and made it clear that they would not be involved in other votes on school finance until the constitutional amendment protecting legislative powers issue is resolved.

This is important for a number of reasons. It is a message to the Senate President Steve Morris and the rest of the leadership that their positions are in some jeopardy without keeping a majority of the GOP caucus behind them. Second, it provides leverage for some house Democrats who would like to vote for a constitutional amendment but are being pressured behind the scenes by their leadership starting from the governor’s office and working its way down that want to keep the Democrats together (only one house D voted for the amendment last weekend) but some members do not want this to be locked into a position defending the court.

Since 84 votes are needed to pass any constitutional amendment in the house and there are 83 Republicans some Democrats will have to vote for this amendment since there are at least a handful of die-hard liberals led by lawyers Tim Owens and Ward Loyd who have publicly criticized on the house floor the senate passed amendment protecting the legislature’s fiscal powers in the strongest words possible. Any amendment would go to the voters in August.

What has made this turn of events quite interesting is the unified senate GOP support for the amendment with every senate Republican voting for this proposal. This includes some very liberal GOP legislators.

The house goes in at 4 PM (right now) and school finance is on the agenda. However, they were expected to start this debate at 11 AM and it has been postponed. It could be postponed again but even if a school finance expenditure bill is passed, the payment for this in the form of either higher taxes or expanded gambling must be resolved too. That’s why the senate’s position on the amendment is critical.

Quick passage in the house of a constitutional amendment followed by a supplemental appropriation for the schools could lead to a quick end to this special session. A lot of balls are still in the air and depending on which ones come down and how soon, will determine the outcome of this special session.

Report from Topeka, June 29, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.


The legislative special session is going to reach a crucial turning point today at the Kansas statehouse.

A group of tax and spend Republicans, lead by Rep. Ward Loyd, Rino-Garden City met with Governor Sebelius and received her blessing for a $161 million school finance spending bill that will be debated and voted upon in the Kansas house today. Last year, Loyd begged Democrats to re-register before the August primary so they could vote for him in his tough primary race. Loyd barely won that contest.

If this spending bill passes the legislature will have begun surrendering their fiscal authority to the Sebelius dominated Kansas Supreme Court. While Governor Sebelius only appointed one of the current six judges on the court, Justice Carol Beier, her chief of staff is married to another judge on this court, Justice Donald Allegrucci. In addition, Governor Sebelius has been working to enact the court’s $1 billion edict to increase school spending in the Montoy school finance case. In April, the governor endorsed the school districts position opposing the $142 million school spending increase approved by the 2005 legislature and which became law without the governor’s signature. She is backing the court’s usurpation of fiscal power in this state by her actions.

The house is scheduled to come in at 11 AM this morning and this debate is likely to be long and acrimonious. The key will be whether or not there are 63 fiscally responsible house members who will reject this fiscal folly or not. This issue, and potentially the future of representative government in Kansas, is definitely in doubt.

If this spending package is passed the session will then move to trying to figure out how to raise roughly $75 million to finance this abomination in the fiscal year that begins Friday, July 1. Proposals to expand gambling or raise taxes will be on the table. The $86 million windfall the state received earlier this month will be spent but a lot more money will be needed.

This spending growth will be chump change compared to the revenue that will be needed to finance the rest of the court’s June 3 edict. The incredible irony about this matter is that the 15 school districts sued the state board of education over school finance funding and the court rules against the legislature and the taxpayers of Kansas–none of whom are parties to this lawsuit. None of whom are allowed to speak in front of this arrogant court. In fact, legislative lawyers were specifically denied the opportunity to address the court during oral arguments in May.

This court is treating the legislature with contempt.

Sadly, the liberal Kansas press, as well stated by the Wichita Eagle’s editorial of June 26, 2005 that is headlined, “Calm Down,” and subtitled,”Judges do have authority on schools,” begins, “Those clamorous groups advancing on the Kansas Supreme Court with torches and pitchforks should pause and take a long, deep breath. That includes the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which opined portentiously last week that the six ‘unelected and unaccountable’ judes of the Kansas Supreme Cort had violated the separation of powers and formented a constitutional crisis..” and continued, “..In their carefully argued and precedent-based opinion, the Kansas Supreme Court justices addressed the authority issue directly, citing similar education battles in other states such as Kentucky…”

Sadly for the Wichita Eagle, the Kentucky Constitution is not phrased the same as the Kansas Constitution’s public school provisions. What is significant is the fact that six appointed judges (four are registered Democrats and one of the two Republicans used to represent the Salina school district that is promoting this school finance lawsuit) have usurped legislative budget authority by ordering the legislature to spend $143 million in additional funds by July 1, 2005. In addition, one moderate Republican lawyer who chairs the house judiciary committee, Rep. Mike O’Neal, warned the house federal and state affairs committee June 28 that the court has created a clear and present danger by continuing to issue orders to the legislature that is not a party to this lawsuit. The court has not actually gotten around to overturning its 1994 ruling that school finance is constitutional and is operating under “interrim” rulings. The court’s January 3 interrim edict conflicts with the court’s June 3 edict.

Unfortunately, the Kansas house recently rejected a proposal to provide a constitutional amendment (73-to-50 with 84 votes needed to send it to the voters to ratify it) that would clarify that fiscal authority lies with the legislature and not with other branches of Kansas government and stop this judicial usurpation.

Kansas is in danger of a judicial oligarchy that is being supported by a governor who is deeply indebted to the government school spending lobby that is promoting this litigation and her Democrat legislative allies. The governor and the school spending promoting legislators deeply believe that the end justifies the means and the court’s actions are promoting public policy outcomes supported by these officials. Legislative skeptics are asking these legislators how they would feel about the court’s decision if the court was ruling that spending should be reduced instead of increased? This appeal to logic does not seem to be having much of an impact as of June 28.

The real question is whether or not the average Kansas taxpayer is paying attention and cares about this critical fiscal fight at the statehouse. There are so many distractions. Besides the usual summertime diversions Wichita is still digesting the Dennis Rader atrocities and his 10 murder convictions. The transfer of Boeing Commercial Aircraft to Onex Corporation is transforming what used to be this state’s largest private employer in Wichita. In the Kansas City area General Motors recent announcement that it will be cutting 25,000 jobs over the next few years could definitely impact the car assembly plant in that area. The legislative sessions normally end in late April or early May so this is an unusual event that is not at the forefront of the news coverage in many parts of this state.

Fiscally concerned Kansans should contact their legislators (this might be hard considering that some legislators have not turned on their email) by calling or writing (state capitol, Topeka, KS 66612).

It is interesting to note how invisible Governor Sebelius has been in this special session. The governor called this special session but provided legislators with only a single sheet of platitudes when they arrived back at the statehouse. The “behind-the-scenes” meeting I mentioned above on June 28 (which was also reported in the news pages of the June 29 Wichita Eagle) between a bipartisan group of tax and spend legislators and the governor shows how far she has walked away from her 2002 campaign promises for fiscal conservatism and opposition to raising taxes. Like a lot of candidates who decline to sign KTN’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, she walked away from her promises of fiscal responsibility once she took her oath of office.

Here’s one example of her tax and spend behavior. The governor took a temporary sales tax hike that her predecessor had set at 5.3% and made it permanent. Sadly, all too many legislative Republicans voted for this back door tax hike. The sales tax rate was supposed to phase back down to 5.0 percent based upon the 2002 tax changes.

In addition, the state’s General Fund is going to exceed $5 billion for the very first time if the governor gets her way on the state budget. Remember, it was 1981 when the state had its first $1 billion General Fund budget. Kansas’ All Funds budget (which includes KDOT, Medicaid, and other off-budget items) topped $11 billion for the very first time this year.

The future of Kansas remains at risk and is dependent upon the fortitude of a majority of the Kansas House of Representatives today.

Report from Topeka, June 28, 2005

Thank you, Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of Kansas Taxpayers Network.


Here’s a legislative update from Topeka as of noon Tuesday. A proposal to raise income and sales taxes has appeared now that the gambling measures are unable to pass out of the Kansas senate in the on going battle over judicial interference with the legislature and school finance in this state.

The house is working on two tracks: the federal and state affairs committee is working on a constitutional amendment that would provide specific boundaries to protect the legislature’s appropriation powers. The second track is a supplemental appropriations bill. The latter requires 63 votes to pass in the Kansas house while a constitutional amendment needs 84 house votes and then is submitted to voters for their final approval.

The legislature is operating under the Sebelius Supreme Court’s July 1 deadline of appropriating an additional $143 million for the fiscal year that begins on Friday. More is expected next year. Here are the major players and their positions:

Governor Sebelius called the special session and wants expanded gaming (although apparently not by Indian tribes but by state owned franchise monopolies) and the legislature to submit to the court’s spending order on school finance. Legislative Democrats are backing her position but have begun expressing support for increased income and sales taxes. It is unclear how big a tax hike the governor is supporting since she relies upon the court and legislative leaders like senate Minority Leader Tony Hensley, D-Topeka when it comes to various revenue measures.

Legislative conservatives are strongest in the house where many of them are saying that they will not appropriate a penny of new money (the state’s latest revised revenue estimates are showing that the Bush tax cuts nationally have recently produced about $86 million state revenue windfall) until the constitutional amendment clarifying the legislator’s budget powers is approved.

GOP liberals are trying to work a deal in the house with legislative Democrats but it is unclear if they have anywhere close to the 63 house votes needed to submit to the court’s order. The senate passed a $161 million spending plan last Friday on a 25-to-14 vote. There were 15 Republican senators who voted with all ten Democrats for this spending bill (one liberal GOP senator is sick and absent) and 14 Republicans voting against it. The entire senate GOP caucus along with one Democrat then followed this vote by rejecting expanded gaming 17-to-22 and then voted for the constitutional amendment clarifying the legislators budget powers. This was highly unusual since the senate Republicans can seldom agree on where the sun is going to set.

There are some GOP moderates who are outraged by the court and have backed the constitutional amendment to protect their constitutional powers. However, when this came up for a final vote in the Kansas house on Sunday, it failed on a 73-to-50 vote with two legislators missing and 84 votes needed for passage. 40-of-the-41 Democrats voting opposed the amendment. Nine Republicans voted with the Democrats led by several Johnson County “moderates” along with a handful of liberal and rural legislators. The GOP legislators voting with the Democrats on this included: Jeff Jack, Jim Yonally, Tim Owens, Stephanie Sharp, Barbara Craft, Don Hill, Dale Swenson, Pat Colloton, and Ray Cox.

The Kansas Supreme Court has one vacancy since the April death of one of its members. The six members include four registered Democrats (one was appointed by former Governor Bill Graves) and two Republicans. One of the Republicans was a lawyer who represented the lead school district behind the school finance lawsuit. What is interesting about this lawsuit and perhaps unique about Kansas is these facts: A) the legislature is not a party to the lawsuit and when they sought to participate before the court during the May oral argument the court denied them the right to appear; B) the legislature is being ordered to appropriated specific amounts by a date certain by this court; C) It is possible (I am basing this upon the testimony of the Attorney General and Rep. Mike O’Neal before the house’s federal and state affairs committee today) that the court may decide to allocate the funds in a manner that differs with the legislators’ appropriation and allocation of these funds.

Attorney General Phill Kline is clearly informing the entire legislature of their options and situation. Kline is trying to protect the citizens from a court that the moderate Rep. O’Neal described as engaging in a form of “…judicial extortion…” against the legislature and ultimately against the taxpayers of this state. O’Neal was careful in stating that the court had not overreached in their January 3 opinion on this case but had done so in their June 3 edict.

Interestingly enough, AG Kline reported that the court has not actually overruled their previous decision from 1994 in the USD 229 case where that KS Supreme Court declined to assume the powers that the 2005 KS Supreme Court has now grabbed. No final ruling has been issued by the court.

Regardless of how the legislature gets out of the current situation these facts are clear: 1) Increasing revenues are likely to be thrown at the schools if a constitutional option is sent to the people but this can occur without a tax hike but at a level well below $143 million; 2) gaming remains an issue; 3) while tax hikes are not the first option, tax hikes are going to appear among the tax ‘n spenders among most Kansas Democrats and all too many “moderate” Republicans; 4) the senate rejected on a 18-to-19 vote a proposal to cut spending by under $40 million yesterday (9 Republicans joined all ten senate Democrats on this vote).

The fact that tax ‘n spend legislators like Bill Kassebaum, Cindy Neighbor, and Dave Corbin were retired by the voters in 2004 is the primary reason that both expanded gaming and taxes have not moved further through the legislative processes this year.

Please feel free to forward this or send it along to Kansas web sites and blogs that are interested in this issue.

Karl Peterjohn
www.kansastaxpayers.com

Report from Topeka, June 24, 2005

Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network


The $160.7 million school spending bill approved by the Kansas senate yesterday passed with the votes of all 10 senate Democrats and 15 GOP tax ‘n spenders. These legislators were also willing to surrender their constitutional and budget authority to the six appointed members of the Kansas Supreme Court.

Here is the list in alphabetical order:

Pat Apple, R; Jim Barone, D; Don Betts, D; Pete Brungardt, R; Jay Emler, R; Marci Francisco, D; Mark Gilstrap, D; Greta Goodwin, D; David Haley, D; Tony Hensley, D Minority Leader; Laura Kelly, D; Janis Lee, D; Steve Morris, R Senate President; Ralph Ostmeyer, R; Roger Pine, R; Roger Reitz, R; Derek Schmidt, R Majority Leader; Vicki Schmidt, R; Jean Schodorf, R; Chris Steineger, D; Mark Taddiken, R; Ruth Teichman, R; Dwayne Umbarger, R; John Vratil, R Vice President; David Wysong, R.

This list includes a variety of folks whose work includes school teachers and school district lawyers. Sen. Barbara Allen, who regularly votes for higher spending and taxes, is suffering from cancer and has not been attending this special session.

Fortunately, the house Education Committee took $149 million out of this outrageous spending plan when they got their hands on it. Three Democrats walked out of the committee meeting in protest of this action. The house will debate this bill later today.

Before the house gets to this education bill it is scheduled to debate two constitutional amendments to restrict the court’s from their legislative activities in the future. It will be fascinating to see if the tax ‘n spenders from both the Democrat and Republican caucuses will be willing to defend their constitutional and historic powers of the purse when these amendments are being debated. It will take 84 votes for final passage of any constitutional amendment out of the house and several members are absent today.

This session is definitely running into this weekend and could wrap up early Sunday morning. If it does, it will be sometime between 3 and 8 AM Sunday. However, I would not bet on that outcome and expect to be back in Topeka next week as this constitutional crisis created by the left-wing Sebelius Supreme court continues.

A correction: yesterday, I believe I mispelled the senate majority leaders last name. It is Derek Schmidt. I apologize for any mispellings contained within these posts and any other insults to the English Language I have accidently and unintentionally committed.

This message will be posted shortly on www.kansastaxpayers.com and other quality web/blog sites. Please feel free to forward to fiscally and constitutionally concerned Kansans.

Report from Topeka, June 23, 2005

Writing from a rest stop on Interstate 80 in Iowa where there is free wireless Internet access: Thank you again, Karl Peterjohn of the Kansas Taxpayers Network, for your insights into the Kansas Legislature’s special session.


The Kansas senate begin surrendering their legislative powers to the Kansas Supreme Court when a 25-to-14 majority approved a $160 million school spending bill. This surrender took the form of the supreme court may want $143 million but we’ll show them with a $160 million!

Take that, Kansas Supreme Court!

Next for the senate is gambling and that wrangling will take quite a while. Last night the senate met until about 9 PM which I cannot recall ever occurring on the first day of any session. Yesterday was the “first day” for this special session.

Only one slight piece of good news was the pro-tax and spend senator Barbara Allen from Johnson County is absent and that means it is a bit harder for the fiscal damage to occur without her consistent record of fiscal profligacy. I wish the reasons for her absense was not tied to her illness. Despite policy differences on fiscal issues I do not wish cancer upon anyone in public or private life…..well there might be a Bin Laden exception.

The house has not done much. They could take up some constitutional amendments to restrict the activist, left-wing supreme court, but they need 84 votes to pass anything. With only 83 Republicans and a solid dozen left-wing RINO tax and spenders who cannot wait to surrender their fiscal powers to the court, this is a very high hurdle to overcome. The house is instead going to fund the Attorney General’s appeal of the death penalty case to the U.S. Supreme Court and aid national guardsmen from Kansas with their insurance.

And….please don’t forget to forward this to friends who share your concerns about the fiscal/judicial climate in Kansas. This will be posted shortly at www.kansastapayers.com as well as other quality web sites and blogs in this state.

Jayhawk Judgment

A few quotes from an excellent editorial in the June 22, 2005 Wall Street Journal titled “Jayhawk Judgment.” The link is here, although you probably have to subscribe to read it. Articles on some of these topics have recently appeared on this website.

Kansas already spends a shade under $10,000 per student in the public schools — the most in the region and above the national average even though Kansas is a low cost-of-living state. Also ignored by the courts were the volumes of scientific evidence that the link between school spending and educational achievement is close to nonexistent. Perhaps one reason schools in Kansas aren’t as good as they might be is that the state ranks 47 out of 50 in education money that actually finds its way inside the classroom.

The travesty of all these court interventions is that they promulgate the fundamental logical fallacy that has long undermined the U.S. public education system: that we should measure performance by inputs, not outputs. Every other industry in America is obliged to cut costs and get more for less; in education, parents and kids keep getting less for more.

Describing the more than $1 billion in additional spending ordered by a judge in the Kansas City, Missouri school system:

The result of this deluge of money was further declines in test scores. In that case even the judge himself later admitted he had erred in thinking that more money would improve dismal schools.

Gambling for education

In a free society dedicated to personal liberty, people should be able to gamble.

With gambling, though, there are fairly predictable costs that arise. Because of the variety of social services that our government provides, many of these costs are borne by the public as a whole. In other words, allowing people the freedom to gamble also means that many others must pay to clean up the mess that some will make of their lives. This cost outweighs the benefit of the freedom to gamble. If we could isolate the harm that problem gamblers cause so that everyone else wouldn’t have to pay to fix it, that would be a different matter.

Even if we could isolate the harm from gambling to those who choose to gamble, innocent victims are harmed — the children of pathological gamblers, for example.

Those who wish to gamble should be able to do so, then, if the harm the problem gamblers cause can be contained. But our state provides so many social services that containing the cost is likely impossible.

If we are to allow gambling in Kansas, we should not tax it in the way being proposed. Why? If casinos in Kansas are successful, they will generate a lot of tax revenue. The government becomes dependent on that tax revenue, and thereby forms a de facto partnership with the casinos. It will be in the state’s interest to have more gambling. The state will likely advertise and promote the casinos, just as it advertises and promotes the Kansas lottery.

We should also keep in mind that the amount it seems like casinos might generate ($150 million per year is a figure I often hear) is a relatively small amount. Kansas tax revenue for fiscal 2005 was $4,632.5 million, so revenue from casino taxes might be about 3.2% of total Kansas tax revenue. But the real percentage is even less, as total spending by the state that year was over $10,813 million, so the amount raised from gambling is less than 1.4% of Kansas total spending. The incremental gain — what really matters — is even less, as much if not all of the money spent gambling is money that would have been spent elsewhere, likely generating tax revenue for the state there.

Of course, this money is for the children, as casino advocates say. We must have casino gambling so that our children can be properly educated, they say. But money is fungible. To say that money arising from a specific source only benefits a given cause is illusory. It makes as much sense as saying the money I earn on Monday and Tuesday goes to the mortgage payment, the money earned on Wednesday for food, Thursday for retirement, etc.

So the real question, then, is do we want to unleash on this state the problems of casino gambling for the vanishingly small benefits it may bring? That is, if we can somehow control and contain its social costs? For me, the answer is “no.”

Some Research on Gambling

If you are interested, a good article to read is an excerpt from The Business-Economic Impacts of Licensed Casino Gambling in West Virginia: Short-Term Gain but Long-Term Pain. Some quotes:

From a business-economic perspective, the main issue involved in legalizing various forms of gambling is whether gambling activities constitute a valid strategy for economic development. While the dollars invested in various legalized gambling projects and the jobs initially created are evident, the industry has been criticized for inflating the positive economic impacts and trivializing or ignoring the negative impacts (Goodman 1994). The industry’s tendency to focus on specialized factors provides a distorted view of the localized economic positives, while ignoring the strategic business-economic costs to the state as a whole (such as West Virginia) and to different regions of the United States (California Governor’s Office 1992, Kindt 1995). In 1994, all of the various experts who testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business criticized the impacts that casino-style gambling activities inflict upon the criminal justice system, the social welfare, system, small businesses, and the economy (Congressional Hearing 1994). Utilizing legalized gambling activities as a strategy for economic development was thoroughly discredited during the hearing.

In recent economic history, legalized gambling activities have been directly and indirectly subsidized by the taxpayers. The field research throughout the nation indicates that for every dollar the legalized gambling interests indicate is being contributed in taxes, it usually costs the taxpayers at least 3 dollars– and higher numbers have been calculated (Politzer, Morrow and Leavey 1981; Better Government Association 1992; Florida Budget Office 1994). These costs to taxpayers are reflected in: (1) infrastructure costs, (2) relatively high regulatory costs, (3) expenses to the criminal justice system, and (4) large social-welfare costs (Illinois Governor’s Office 1992). Accordingly, several state legislators (e.g., in South Dakota) have called for at least partially internalizing these external costs by taxing all legalized gambling activities at a straight 50 percent tax rate.

Specifically regarding education, which is a driving force for considering gambling at this moment.

Gambling activities and the gambling philosophy are directly opposed to sound business principles and economic development. Legalized gambling activities also negatively affect education– both philosophically and fiscally (Better Government Association 1992; Clotfelter and Cook 1989). Adherence to a philosophy of making a living via gambling activities not only abrogates the perceived need for an education, but also reinforces economically unproductive activities (and is statistically impossible since the “house” always wins eventually). In states with legalized gambling activities which were initiated allegedly to bolster tax revenues to “education,” the funding in “real dollars” has almost uniformly decreased.

From the conclusion:

Increasingly, taxpayers and businesses are beginning to realize that, as Professor Jack Van Der Slik has summarized for much of the academic community, state-sponsored gambling “produces no product, no new wealth, and so it makes no genuine contribution to economic development” (Van Der Slik 1990). Business-economic history supports this proposition. The recriminalization of gambling activities occurred 100 years ago after a brief gambling boom following the Civil War. Most state legislatures utilized constitutional provisions to recriminalize gambling, because lawmakers wanted to make it as difficult as possible for future generations to experiment with the classic “boom and bust” cycles and the concomitant socioeconomic negatives occasioned by legalized gambling activities. To paraphrase Georg Hegel’s common quote, “those who forget the lessons of economic history are condemned to relive them” (Bartlett 1968).

Even the supporters of gambling concede there are social costs. In a report prepared for the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and avaible to read by clicking here, we read: “At a cost of $13,586 in social costs for each [pathological gambler], the annual burden on the community could range between $71 and $106 million.” Of course, these costs are offset by benefits, the study says. These costs are not just dollar costs, however. They are human costs paid in suffering, often by innocent family members of the problem gamblers.

Politicians’ Confusing Attitudes Towards Gambling

The attitude of some politicians is quite confusing. For example, as reported in The Wichita Eagle on June 16, 2005, regarding Senator Donald Betts:

Sen. Donald Betts, a Wichita Democrat, said he is aware of gambling’s social impact, having grown up in Las Vegas.

“Beyond the neon, there was a grim reality of what gambling does to a community,” he said.

Still, he said, he likely would support a gambling bill if it is brought up next week.

“In my district, I believe it’s a lot better choice than increasing taxes,” Betts said. “My constituents are calling me and asking me, when are we going to get the casinos?”

(If I were as clever as Rush Limbaugh, I suppose I might make some crack about what a guy named Betts thinks about gambling.)

There are other examples of politicians saying they know there is a downside to gambling, but we’re going to have it anyway, they say.

Report from Topeka, June 22, 2005

Here’s a report on the special session of the Kansas Legislature from Karl Peterjohn, Executive Director of the Kansas Taxpayers Network. Thanks to Karl for his fine reporting and commentary.


Here’s the start of a blog for KTN and any other quality Kansas sites interested in this state’s fiscal crisis thanks to our left-wing, prejudiced Kansas supreme court. For the details on the court’s conflicts of interest see the recent KTN editorial column discussing Justice Nuss and Justice Allegrucci’s need to recuse themselves in the school finance litigation.

The house is likely done for the day (June 22) with all eyes watching efforts to put together a bill that would raise state school spending beyond the $143 million sought by the court and try and turn Kansas into a state with franchise casinos dotting the state. Kansas would be the only state that I know of where the casinos would be “owned” by the state and then contracted out to operators.

In theory there is a one subject limitation on any bills but once the court threw the rule book out the window it seems like anything goes and this bill could have gambling, appropriations, and new plumbing for the judicial center (tongue-in-cheek on last item) combined into one fat piece of legislation.

What makes this special session unique is the remodeling of the statehouse has forced the Kansas senate into meeting in the third floor chambers that once upon a time belonged to the Kansas Supreme Court. I jokingly asked if black robes were being issued to each senator. It is standing room only inside the chamber with senate leaders seated like judges at the front of the room and the backbench senators seated at a table in front of their leaders.

This is quite a change from the usual senatorial operations at the statehouse. It does seem appropriate in an era of judicial edicts setting and perhaps even determining the legislative outcome. First we have a bunch of black robed judges behaving like legislators. Now we have the Kansas senate meeting in the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

There seems to be a determination on the part of the liberal senators in both parties that a spending package of expanded gaming and reduced cash balances will allow them to expand spending according to the order from the court. Some senators want to expand the spending well beyond the court’s edict. I guess that will show them that they are not subservient to their judicial masters!

House members as a whole are not nearly as submissive as the senate. However, it is not clear what will be offered in the way of constitutional amendments to stick it to the court and defend the legislature’s constitutional and historic powers. The problem is that any amendment needs 27 senate votes and 84 house votes to be sent to the voters. that is a very difficult threshold to cross. There are hallway discussions on statutory provisions that would make it more difficult for the court to continue to meddle in legislative matters. Sadly, all too many legislators appear ready willing and able to submit to whatever nonsense the court ordered June 3 and could order in the future.

The school spending lobby held a rally this morning but the statehouse was ready for an anti-judicial tyrrany rally over the lunch hour. Elsewhere in the statehouse it looked like it was spend and fritter the taxpayers money away as usual. More details in an upcoming post.

Nationally, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has an editorial today entitled, “Jayhawk Judgment,” and sub-titled, “A constitutional showdown oer the power to tax.” It is excellent and I recommend it highly. Here are a couple of fair use quotes from it: “…under the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, the legislative branch makes the laws and the judicial branch interprets them. No so in Kansas these days. There the state Supreme Court has commanded that the legislature must increase spending on the schools, as well as the taxes to pay for it, by precisely $853 million over the next two years.” Later it says, “The legislature is sworn to abide by the Kansas Constitution, but that doesn’t mean abandoning its own powers of the purse to an unelected judiciary. This is a showdown between the branches of government, and the legislature has every right to protect its own constitutional prerogatives from judicial intrusion. In this case that means protecting Kansans from judicially ordered, and thus unconstitutional, tax increase.”

This is a national warning that any business looking to locate or expand in Kansas with our runaway courts and unlimited tax and spend policies would be crazy. Our neighbors will benefit from our spendthrift legacy. In fact there is vivid evidence of this legacy.

It is interesting to note that an important and largely unknown former Kansan died yesterday. The inventor of the integrated circuit chip Jack Kilby, originally from Great Bend, died at 81. This 2000 Nobel Laureate is an excellent example of a former Kansan who grew up here and moved elsewhere, like to Texas as in Texas Instruments to pursue his career. We graduate a lot of Jack Kilby’s from Kansas who return as regular “Kansas tourists” visiting family and friends over a week in summer or during the holiday season at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is part of the price Kansas pays for being a high tax and big government state that regularly stifles entrepreneurship with the highest business property taxes and high corporate income taxes that were strongly criticized by Scott Hodges, the head of the Tax Foundation, at a Topeka forum June 14. Our property, income, sales, and excise taxes are lousy too. See other parts of KTN’s web site: www.kansastaxpayers.com for details.

How teaching math is politicized in public schools

The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled “Ethnomathematics” (June, 20, 2005, available at this link, although registration may be required) tells us of the transformation of mathematics from a universal language and tool for understanding and problem-solving to a “tool to advance social justice.”

For example:

In a comparison of a 1973 algebra textbook and a 1998 “contemporary mathematics” textbook, Williamson Evers and Paul Clopton found a dramatic change in topics. In the 1973 book, for example, the index for the letter “F” included “factors, factoring, fallacies, finite decimal, finite set, formulas, fractions, and functions.” In the 1998 book, the index listed “families (in poverty data), fast food nutrition data, fat in fast food, feasibility study, feeding tours, ferris wheel, fish, fishing, flags, flight, floor plan, flower beds, food, football, Ford Mustang, franchises, and fund-raising carnival.”

Now mathematics is being nudged into a specifically political direction by educators who call themselves “critical theorists.” They advocate using mathematics as a tool to advance social justice. Social justice math relies on political and cultural relevance to guide math instruction. One of its precepts is “ethnomathematics,” that is, the belief that different cultures have evolved different ways of using mathematics, and that students will learn best if taught in the ways that relate to their ancestral culture.

Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is “Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood.” Others include “The Transnational Capital Auction,” “Multicultural Math,” and “Home Buying While Brown or Black.” Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media, and environmental racism.

It seems terribly old-fashioned to point out that the countries that regularly beat our students in international tests of mathematics do not use the subject to steer students into political action. They teach them instead that mathematics is a universal language that is as relevant and meaningful in Tokyo as it is in Paris, Nairobi and Chicago. The students who learn this universal language well will be the builders and shapers of technology in the 21st century. The students in American classes who fall prey to the political designs of their teachers and professors will not.

If you do not want your children to attend schools where this type of mathematics is taught, you may not have much choice if your family is of modest means. If you want to send your children to a schools where meaningful, traditional mathematics is taught, you may not be able to because of the near-monopoly that government has on schools. It is time to end the government’s monopoly on education and bring meaningful schools choice to parents. Parents who are happy with the type of education the government is presently providing will still have that available for their children, if that is what they want.

How children lose in the Kansas Legislature’s special session

USD 259 (Wichita) public schools superintendent Winston Brooks plans to use the majority of the anticipated increase in school funding to reduce class size. Evidence cited in other articles on this website show that smaller class sizes don’t produce better educational outcomes for students.

Because the conventional wisdom is that smaller class sizes are good for students, the extra money and smaller class sizes will be saluted as a victory for the children. Editorial writers, school administrators, teachers, and those who don’t care to confront facts will thank the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Legislature for saving the children.

The sad fact is that this seeming victory, a victory which does nothing to help children, will delay desperately needed reform for another year. In all likelihood reform will be delayed even longer, as if the legislature accedes to the court’s demand this year, it may also do so next year, when the court has called for even more spending.

Who benefits from smaller class size? The teachers unions do. Smaller class sizes mean a lighter workload for current teachers. More teachers (paying more union dues) need to be hired, as is the plan in Wichita.

But as mentioned earlier, smaller class size doesn’t help the students. That’s the danger in spending more on schools. It seems like the additional money should help the schools, and those who procure the money are treated as heroes. This illusion of a solution delays the reform that is badly needed.

What would truly help children? Overwhelming evidence points to school choice. As Harvard economist and researcher Caroline M. Hoxby said about the school voucher program in Milwaukee:

From 1998-1999 onwards, the schools that faced the most competition from the vouchers improved student achievement radically–by about 0.6 of a standard deviation each year. That is an enormous, almost unheard-of, improvement. Keep in mind the schools in question had had a long history of low achievement. Yet they were able to get their act together quickly. The most threatened schools improved the most, not only compared to other schools in Milwaukee but also compared to other schools in the state of Wisconsin that served poor, urban students.

Milwaukee shows what public school administrators can tell you: Schools can improve if they are under serious competition.

Why, then, don’t we have school choice in Wichita? The teachers unions and education establishment are against it. They don’t want to face the same type of free market forces that the rest of us face. They are in charge of educating children, they tell us they are doing the best they can, that everything they do is for the children and only the children, but they oppose desperately needed reform.

Tax Abatements For All

Recently I wrote about the Mississippi Beef Plant (The Mississippi Beef Plant Has a Lesson For Us) and its spectacular costs to the taxpayers of Mississippi. I wondered if there were less spectacular failures that we didn’t know about because they weren’t reported in the news media. Failures in this context could mean a situation where the taxpayers have to make good on a bond or debt that the benefiting company didn’t pay, or it could mean a situation where the company doesn’t default, but fails to deliver on the promised economic development activity.

In an article in the June 15, 2005 Wichita Eagle titled Stalled Firms Keep Tax Breaks we learn of two failures of the second type. The two companies in question, The Coleman Company and McCormick-Armstrong, failed to deliver on their promises to add jobs in exchange for property tax abatements. Coleman, in fact, employs 114 fewer people than at the time the bonds were issued.

Why do governments grant companies tax abatements? It’s simple. When companies pay less tax, they have the opportunity to invest more. Tax abatements are tacit recognition that the cost of government is onerous and serves to decrease private economic activity and investment.

Shouldn’t we lower taxes for everyone, instead of only for the chosen few companies that are in a position to receive political favors from local governments?

The cthics case against Justice Donald L. Allegrucci

I have filed an ethics complaint against Kansas Supreme Court Justice Donald L. Allegrucci. This complaint is on the agenda of the July 1, 2005 meeting of the Kansas Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

I happen to disagree with the ruling the Kansas Supreme Court made in the case cited in my complaint. I have been asked whether I would have filed the same complaint if I had agreed with the court’s ruling. The answer to that question is probably not. My level of interest would probably not be what it is. That troubles me, as we as citizens need to be watchful for these types of judicial transgressions, no matter what our political beliefs are, and not mattering whether we or the causes that we support benefit from the judge’s rulings.

I have yet to see much newspaper reporting on this. The Associated Press wrote a story based on Karl Peterjohn’s column, and the Wichita Eagle and Topeka Capital-Journal printed it, although in Wichita it was pretty far back in the paper’s pages.

The form I filed with the Commission asks for a twenty-five word statement of what the judge did that was unethical. This is what I wrote:

Justice Allegrucci is married to the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The Governor has taken a position on a case before Justice Allegrucci’s court.

For the details of the complaint, I wrote this:

In the case Montoy v. State, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius has taken a position. In an article titled “School finance plan delivered to state Supreme Court” published in the Lawrence Journal-World on April 7, 2005, she is quoted as stating “As governor, I believe the Legislature’s school funding plan is neither responsible nor sustainable. It jeopardizes the state’s finances, as well as jobs and economic growth throughout Kansas.” The legislature’s school funding plan is now before the court Justice Allegrucci serves on.

Justice Allegrucci is married to Joyce Allegrucci, who serves as the Governor’s Chief of Staff.

In the Kansas Rules Relating to Judicial Conduct, Canon 2, paragraph B states: A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge’s judicial conduct or judgment.

Through marriage, Justice Allegrucci has a family relationship to Joyce Allegrucci. Through employment and political considerations, Joyce Allegrucci has a relationship to Governor Sebelius.

Canon 2, paragraph A states: A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

In the commentary: A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge’s ability to carry out judicial responsibilities with integrity, impartiality and competence is impaired.

Because of the family relationship to an important member of the Governor’s staff, we can never be sure whether Justice Allegrucci’s rulings are affected by this relationship. This is appearance of impropriety, if not actual impropriety.

Senator Kay O’Connor

Kansas Senator Kay O’Connor, Republican from Olathe, has been in the news recently.

It has been reported that Sen. O’Connor opposes the right of women to vote. In the June 12, 2005 Wichita Eagle a letter writer repeated this assertion. On June 2, 2005, the Eagle printed an Associated Press piece by John Hanna that detailed the remarks. On June 3, 2005, the Eagle editorialized about this, opposing Sen. O’Connor.

The facts, though, are different. Sen. O’Connor denies making the remarks. The Kansas City Star, the newspaper that first reported the story, would not print her letter telling her side. Neither would that newspaper print the letters of witnesses to Sen. O’Connor’s remarks, witnesses who say she did not say what she is reported to have said.

I have met Sen. O’Connor. I admire her for her work on school choice in Kansas. She also voted against the bill allowing Sedgwick County to raise the sales tax for the downtown arena. I can understand, then, the Wichita Eagle not liking Sen. O’Connor and editorializing against her candidacy for Secretary of State, as Sen. O’Connor is a conservative, and the Eagle’s editorial board seems quite liberal and in favor of big government. I would ask the editorial writers, though, to investigate these alleged remarks before citing them again. The Eagle is a newspaper, after all, and it should do some reporting of its own.

Following is a piece that details the Sen. O’Connor matter, and tells us more about the news media in Kansas.

OUR NEWS MEDIA’S INACCURATE STORIES
By Karl Peterjohn, October 26, 2001

Hey, have you heard the one about the female state senator from Kansas who opposes woman’s right to vote? It’s a story that was first printed in the Kansas City Star and made it into the national press and eventually even into Jay Leno’s monologue.

The star’s story claims conservative state senator Kay O’Connor, R-Olathe said this after she had finished attending a September 19 League of Women Voters forum in Johnson County. O’Connor who did not speak at this forum was talking privately to a couple of members of the league, Dolores Furtado and Janis McMillen as well as state representative Mary Cook, R-Shawnee.

Kansas City Star reporter Finn Bullers attended this meeting and belatedly claimed in a September 28 article that O’Connor told these ladies that she opposed the right of women to vote. O’Connor vehemently denies this assertion. What is newsworthy is not the borking of a social conservative in the pages of the liberal Kansas City Star.

After all this looks like standard policy based on the treatment that another conservative, former Kansas state school board member Linda Holloway also received from the K.C. Star. What was newsworthy was the fact that O’Connor’s written response to this assertion did not make it into even the letters section of the K.C. Star’s editorial page. It appears that O’Connor’s statement would be too politically incorrect for the K.C. Star to let O’Connor say, “This whole affair is simply ridiculous. I have always supported the right of women to vote, and have literally encouraged women to exercise that right.” O’Connor went on to say, “…I am hurt and upset by the manner in which my views have been distorted.”

Even more outrageous was the fact that another elected official, Rep. Cook, who witnessed the exchange, was unable to have her letter to the editor appear in print as of late October. She wrote the K.C. Star saying, “I was standing next to Kay O’Connor (who) was having her private conversation with Dolores Furtado and Janis McMillen, League of Women Voter members. I can say with confidence that Kay never said that she did not support the 19th Amendment or the women’s right to vote.”

Trashing state senator O’Connor fits right in with the treatment Judge Robert Bork received during his confirmation hearings in the late 1980’s. Bork’s nomination was scuttled by a tidal wave of inaccurate allegations from left wing and liberal critics that had nothing to do with his qualifications to serve on the federal court. Hence the phrase: “borking.”

Conservative men are just as big a target for the political left in the Kansas Press as women. Editorial writer Dick Snider in early October used a second hand, anonymous source who claimed that his information came from another anonymous “…party potentate…” who allegedly got it from a person attending a meeting at U.S. Senator Sam Brownback’s house. Brownback supposedly had offered state treasurer Tim Shallenburger a federal position as a consolation prize if he was unsuccessful in running for Kansas governor next year according to columnist Snider. This appalling inaccuracy then appeared in Mr. Snider’s Topeka Capital-Journal column. This assertion could have easily been debunked if Mr. Snider he had bothered to talk to any of the roughly 20 folks who were actually at this meeting. Mr. Snider apparently couldn’t be bothered or most conservatives are unwilling to talk with him. Mr. Snider did issue a semi-retraction October 12 after Senator Brownback’s office called Mr. Snider complaining about this lie, so this case is not quite as outrageous as the KC Star’s distortions.

I can speak first hand as a similar victim of an inaccurate Kansas City Star article written by the lying Mike Hendricks. These are not isolated cases. If you need more examples, folks should contact former K.C. Star editorialist John Altevogt, who has many more examples about his former newspaper.

Journalists should know that corrections should be made when mistakes appear in print. It is sad to see some Kansas journalists following down the footpath blazed by the fictional writing in the national press. These abuses have occurred in major papers from the Washington Post to the Boston Globe and led to reporters and columnist’s eventual firing and disgrace. In the Washington Post’s case a Pulitzer Prize was actually awarded and then retracted. In Kansas the borking takes place and the so called “journalists” just keep on writing.

Credibility is a vital tool for both elected officials and the news media. The fact that major news organizations like the KC Star are either too arrogant or too defensive to even print letters to the editor by elected officials who have been maligned by it are appalling. This is especially true when contrasted with the misbehaviors of politically correct politicians, like President Clinton, who had his Lewinsky scandal story killed initially on the mainstream press’ news desk. If it had not been for the internet and cyber-journalist Matt Drudge, the Monica Lewinsky perjury and obstruction of justice scandal would never have appeared in public. This is not, “all the news that’s fit to print,” but “all the news that fits.”

Regarding School Finance from Senator Karin Brownlee

By Senator Karin Brownlee, Republican from Olathe

What is the higher priority? Should the Legislature send $143 million more to schools or preserve the form of government our forefathers carefully designed over two hundred years ago? The separation of powers doctrine is fundamental to maintaining our free society because it maintains a balance of powers with the judiciary unable to control the budget. That is until last Friday when the Kansas Supreme Court blurred the lines and came out with a ruling that the Kansas Legislature should appropriate an additional $143 million to the K-12 schools, for starters. The Court expects $568 million more after that.

A few school districts in Kansas sued the state because of their perception that the state is under funding them. This suit worked its way through the Kansas courts to the point that the state Supreme Court in January mandated the Legislature to address some specific areas to ensure an equal education for all Kansas students. The Legislature responded by voting to send an additional $142 million to our schools with some of the additions targeting the specific needs. This is the largest increase to schools since 1992. Out of our $4.9 billion budget, about $2.6 billion will go to schools in ’05-’06.

The school lobby in the Kansas Capitol is possibly the strongest lobby under the dome. I have seen bills pass initially one day only to get squished like a bug the next day on a final vote because the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) and the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) deemed the bill a threat to their way of life. Because of the strength of this lobby, it is hard to sort fact from fiction when discussing school finance.

You have probably heard that the base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) has not kept up with inflation. What are the facts? BSAPP is only one part of the school funding formula and there isn’t a district in the state that only receives this amount. It is always multiplied by weighting factors which increases this number significantly. Since the school funding formula was rewritten in 1992, state, local and federal funds increases for K-12 have surpassed the consumer price index (CPI) every year. Kansas spends about 54% of its state budget on our schools. On average, other states spend about 35% of their state budgets on K-12. The next time someone tries to convince you that the Legislature is shortchanging our schools, you might keep these facts in mind.

Additionally, Kansas students perform quite well when compared to students in other states. Over the past few years, our schools have ranked in the top ten states in many categories. In some areas on nationalized tests, our students are ranked even higher. Lack of quality is not driving the push for millions more to schools.

I write all of this to make the point that the true need may not be the hundreds of millions of dollars that the state Supreme Court is mandating. Certainly our schools would make use of any money sent their way. However, the need for balance in state spending is critical to maintain a positive climate for families and businesses. Frankly, this struggle is no longer about school funding. The greater need is to maintain the balance of powers and not allow a court to tell the Legislature who gets how much money. That is the exclusive duty of the Kansas Legislature.

Corruption in the Public Schools: The Market Is the Answer

Corruption in the Public Schools: The Market Is the Answer
by Neal McCluskey
Click here to read the article.

This is an excellent article that shows how free markets can provide the best education for our children.

On the surface, it would seem that having government bureaucrats in charge of educating children would produce good results. For a time in America, it did. But not now. As Milton Friedman said in his commentary “Free to Choose” published in the Wall Street Journal on June 9, 2005:

“A Nation at Risk” stimulated much soul-searching and a whole series of major attempts to reform the government educational system. These reforms, however extensive or bold, have, it is widely agreed, had negligible effect on the quality of the public school system. Though spending per pupil has more than doubled since 1970 after allowing for inflation, students continue to rank low in international comparisons; dropout rates are high; scores on SATs and the like have fallen and remain flat. Simple literacy, let alone functional literacy, in the United States is almost surely lower at the beginning of the 21st century than it was a century earlier. And all this is despite a major increase in real spending per student since “A Nation at Risk” was published.

“A Nation at Risk” was published in 1983.

The executive summary of “Corruption in the Public Schools”:

One of the most frequently voiced objections to school choice is that the free market lacks the “accountability” that governs public education. Public schools are constantly monitored by district administrators, state officials, federal officials, school board members, and throngs of other people tasked with making sure that the schools follow all the rules and regulations governing them. That level of bureaucratic oversight does not exist in the free market, and critics fear choice-based education will be plagued by corruption, poor-quality schools, and failure.

Recently, news surfaced that appeared to justify critics’ fears. Between the beginning of 2003 and the middle of 2004, Florida’s Palm Beach Post broke a slew of stories identifying corruption in the state’s three school choice programs. The number of stories alone seemed to confirm that a choice-based system of education is hopelessly prone to corruption. But when Florida’s choice problems are compared with cases of fraud, waste, and abuse in public schools — schools supposedly inoculated against corruption by “public accountability” — choice problems suddenly don’t seem too bad.

So which system is more likely to produce schools that are scandal free, efficient, and effective at educating American children? The answer is school choice, precisely because it lacks the bureaucratic mechanisms of public accountability omnipresent in public schools.

In many districts bureaucracy is now so thick that the purveyors of corruption use it to hide the fraud they’ve perpetrated and to deflect blame if their misdeeds are discovered. However, for the principals, superintendents, and others purportedly in charge of schools, bureaucracy has made it nearly impossible to make failed systems work. Public accountability has not only failed to defend against corruption, it has also rendered many districts, especially those most in need of reform, impervious to change.

In contrast to our moribund public system, school choice isn’t encumbered by compliance-driven rules and regulations, which allows institutions to tailor their products to the needs of the children they teach and lets parents select the schools best suited to their child’s needs. And accountability is built right in: schools that offer parents what they want at a price they are willing to pay will attract students and thrive, while those that don’t will cease to exist.

From the conclusion:

When examples of fraud, waste, or abuse are uncovered in school choice programs, they typically set off firestorms of criticism from people who oppose educational freedom. Critics quickly hold up any example of malfeasance in choice schools as proof that the market can’t provide the level of accountability supposedly guaranteed in public schools. But public schools’ accountability, as has been demonstrated constantly in districts around the nation, is a myth. Worse, it’s a myth whose propagation not only blinds people to the system’s failure to control corruption but also ignores bureaucracy’s disastrous toll on educational effectiveness. Ironically, though, there is a way to have both educational effectiveness and accountability, and it’s the very thing people who oppose school choice most fear: true choice-based education.

The school productivity crisis

As the Kansas Legislature prepares to meet to consider school financing, it is a good time to reflect upon the state of our public schools.

This interview (How to Improve School Productivity? Caroline Minter Hoxby) with noted Harvard economist Caroline M. Hoxby teaches us that American public schools have poor and declining productivity. As she states:

The main symptom of the productivity crisis is the fact that productivity has fallen almost 50 percent in the past 30 years. We measure productivity by dividing a measure of student achievement by per-pupil spending in inflation-adjusted dollars. Regardless of which achievement measure we use, we find a decline in productivity of 40 to 50 percent. This is because achievement has been flat or slightly declining, while costs have been escalating rapidly.

When asked how schools are able to increase costs without increasing the quality of the product, she responds:

Schools don’t face enough competition. Just imagine competing grocery stores. If one of them decided to increase its prices but offer exactly the same products, people would go to the other grocery stores and the store would quickly go out of business. Unfortunately, parents do not have sufficient opportunity to change schools so that they can say, “My school is more expensive than before and it doesn’t seem to be doing better than other competing schools. Therefore I’m going to send my child to another school.” In other words, competition in the education industry is too weak to be an effective brake on costs.

Regarding teacher unions:

… the teacher unions can be very demanding for their members, who often want contracts that are not best for students. There’s no effective brake on the teacher unions because they are not forced to negotiate contracts that permit their schools to remain competitive. There is just not much of a competitive marketplace out there.

On class size:

The evidence suggests that class-size reduction has no effect on student achievement. There are literally hundreds of studies of class size, which have been very effectively reviewed by Eric Hanushek, that suggest that reducing class size does not raise achievement.

I have a study in which I examined every change in class size at every elementary school in Connecticut over a 20-year period. In schools, class size varies from year to year because enrollment varies. Therefore, with 20 years and 800-some schools, there is a tremendous amount of variation in class size to examine.

I found there was no effect of class size on achievement at all, even when children were in small classes for all six years of elementary school.

There really is only one study in which a class-size reduction improved student achievement: the Tennessee STAR experiment. But the effect on achievement was tiny–a 10 percent reduction in class size raised achievement by two one-hundredths of a standard deviation in achievement test scores.

More importantly, in the Tennessee STAR experiment, everyone involved knew that if the class-size reduction didn’t affect achievement, the experimental classes would return to their normal size and a general class-size reduction would not be funded by the legislature. In other words, principals and teachers had strong incentives to make the reduction work. Unfortunately, class-size reductions are never accompanied by such incentives when they are enacted as a policy.

Also, it is worth keeping in mind that class-size reduction is very expensive. A 10 percent reduction in class size typically costs about $850 per year per student. For such a large amount of money, we could fund programs that are much more likely to raise achievement.

Reducing class size is a perfect example of a policy that the teacher unions like, but that lowers school productivity. The unions like it because each teacher has less work and more teachers have to be hired.

On school choice and vouchers:

From 1998-1999 onwards, the schools that faced the most competition from the vouchers improved student achievement radically–by about 0.6 of a standard deviation each year. That is an enormous, almost unheard-of, improvement. Keep in mind the schools in question had had a long history of low achievement. Yet they were able to get their act together quickly. The most threatened schools improved the most, not only compared to other schools in Milwaukee but also compared to other schools in the state of Wisconsin that served poor, urban students.

Milwaukee shows what public school administrators can tell you: Schools can improve if they are under serious competition.

A theme that appears in Dr. Hoxby’s remarks is that competition is the way to improve schools. The way to create competition is to give parents real choice in where and how to educate their children. Providing substantial, meaningful vouchers is a way to do this.

Beneath the Radar

Beneath the Radar
by Richard Nadler

On June 3, the Supreme Court of Kansas issued a ruling requiring the state legislature to appropriate an additional $853 million per year to Kansas schools, K-12. The basis of the decision, said a unanimous court, was a clause in the Kansas Constitution: “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

The increase equals roughly 20% of the state’s entire general revenue budget.In comes at the end of a fifteen year period during which Kansas’ expenditure per pupil doubled, exceeding the rise in consumer prices by 29%.

In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court refused, in San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, to “equalize” school spending. No trend better illustrates judicial activism than the steady stream of state school finance decisions that followed. From Connecticut to California, liberal courts have broken legislative budgets and spending caps.“Equalization” has served as a pretext for tax increases in some states, and for attacking local control of schools in others.Indeed, “school finance litigation” has become a multi-billion dollar business, commanding its own corps of specialty lawyers and expert witnesses.

To a large extent, these developments passed beneath the radar of conservative opinion makers. The fights are sporadic and local.Moreover, conservative icons want no part of them. Victory against the education lobby carries a political price; grumbling acquiescence to a court does not.Thus, the most prominent conservatives in Kansas – men like Attorney General Phill Kline, Sen. Sam Brownback, and Sen. Pat Roberts – have absented themselves from public debate over the Kansas court’s actions.

The rationales state jurists present for assuming control of legislative functions have become bolder.In its June 3rd decision (Montoy v. Kansas), the state supreme court spills as much ink justifying its jurisdiction as its remedies.The latter are predictable and formulaic:more money for public education; less local control for district patrons.But the former are bold and exciting.In explicating their takeover, the Kansas Supremes cite a growing body of literature from law journals and other states, as well as their own precedents.Fans of republican government should take note.

In the Sunflower State, judges, legislatures and schools co-existed for a century and a half without it entering the heads of the first to replace the role of the second in appropriating for the third.But today, Kansas courts assume a right to determine public policy on the basis of the presentations of litigants before the bar.Explicitly adopting the rationale of a Kentucky court, the Kansas justices quote it:

“…[In this case] we are asked – based solely on the evidence in the record before us – if the present system of common schools in Kentucky is ‘efficient’ in the constitutional sense.… To avoid deciding the case because of ‘legislative discretion,’ ‘legislative function,’ etc., would be a denigration of our own constitutional duty.To allow the General Assembly (or, in point of fact, the Executive) to decide whether its actions are constitutional is literally unthinkable.”

In other words, the “record” that is presented in the course of litigation not only can, but must, replace the form of “fact finding” that goes on in state legislature.To refrain from a decision based on the limitations of the knowledge base available through litigation is “unthinkable.”

In fact, the imperfection of the legislative process provides the rationale for intervention.“Specifically,” say the justices in Montoy, “the district court found that the financing formula was not based upon actual costs to educate children, but was instead based on former spending levels and political compromise [Italic mine-RN].”

The rules-based actions that legislative bodies apply to base-line budgets are thus structurally suspect.A process so arbitrary invites review.But once a case has been presented, how are the constitutional duties of the three branches of state government defined?Once again, the Kansas court cites its Kentucky peers:

“The judiciary has the ultimate power, and the duty to apply, interpret, define, and construe all words, phrases, sentences and sections of the Kentucky Constitution as necessitated by the controversies before it.It is solely [italic added by the Kansas justices – RN] the function of the judiciary to so do. This duty must be exercised even when such action serves as a check on the activities of another branch of government or when the court’s view of the constitution is contrary to that of the other branches, or even that of the public.”

Now, the relevant entries of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary define “Apply” thus: a) “to bring into action, to put into operation or effect (as in a law);” andb) “[to] put to use, especially for some practical purpose.”

These phrases describe the traditional function of the executive branch in our state constitutions.What the Kansas Supreme Court has substantively claimed is an exclusive right to make law on any case brought before it.The constitutional oaths state executives take, like those of legislators, are in vain.

States are a particularly promising venue for this brand of juridical monopoly.The Kansas Justices cite a 1991 Harvard Law Review article to explain:

[U]nlike federal courts, state courts need not be constrained by federalism issues of comity or state sovereignty when exercising remedial power over a state legislature, for state courts operate within the system of a single sovereign.”

So our “single sovereign” is liberated from lesser sovereignties, as well as the constitutional claims of its co-equal branches of government.

For how long can the court claim this license? Harvard Law explains: “… the Court too must accept its continuing constitutional responsibility… for overview… of compliance with the constitutional imperative.’

To summarize:The public policy dicta of a state court need not be constrained by the messy squabbling of elected legislators, nor by facts neglected by the litigants-at-bar; nor by the constitutional duties of its co-equal branches; nor by lesser political subdivisions; nor by time itself.

It was a persistent dream of socialist and fascist thinkers of the twentieth century to replace the noisy, class-influenced machinery of democracy with a professional corps of experts who would design economic and social institutions in the interests of the people.In Montoy, the Kansas Supremes set their hands to it.But the best they could produce was a rehash of fragments of the legislature process, ripped from their moorings in popular sovereignty.

The court adopted a single study by a single committee of the legislature.The justices treated its proposals as law, and rammed them down the throats of all concerned.Montoy’s policy prescriptions – more funding for public schools, less local control – would have surprised the U.S. Supreme Court justices who rejected a “remedy” in 1973. For the majority, Justice Powell wrote:

It is also well to remember that even those districts that have reduced ability to make free decisions with respect to how much they spend on education still retain, under the present system, a large measure of authority as to how available funds will be allocated. They further enjoy the power to make numerous other decisions with respect to the operation of the schools.The people of Texas may be justified in believing that other systems of school financing, which place more of the financial responsibility in the hands of the State, will result in a comparable lessening of desired local autonomy. That is, they may believe that along with increased control of the purse strings at the state level will go increased control over local policies.

But then, Powell was constrained by those silly federalist principles.

— Richard Nadler is president of America’s Majority, a not-for-profit dedicated to building the demographic base of the conservative movement.

Wearing a Black Robe to Make Sausage

Wearing a Black Robe to Make Sausage
by Bob L. Corkins
April 22, 2005

Want to create new laws without legislators? Then watch the Kansas Supreme Court for the next few weeks to see how it’s done.

Like pride for trophies on a mantle, trial lawyers boast of cases where they convinced a court to declare the birth of a new duty. Persuade a jury that somebody owes a responsibility to someone else, even if there’s no agreement, precedent, or statute providing a basis, then collect damages after showing the duty was breached.

If the decision holds up on appeal – Presto! – a new law is born. You don’t even need to mess with a jury when a single judge is tabbed as the official “finder of fact”.

Plaintiff school districts found just the judge they were hoping for when they filed their billion dollar Montoy v. State case challenging the fairness of Kansas’ K-12 education funding plan. The trial judge ruled that the state aid formula was both inequitable and under-funded. The Kansas Supreme Court now appears ready to uphold that result, but with one major twist in reasoning.

Any discrimination of our laws is traditionally evaluated with the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause. In the Montoy trial court’s opinion, disparities in K-12 funding caused “a clear denial of equal protection of the laws in contravention of both the United States and Kansas Constitutions”.

Many disagree with this conclusion and formed solid legal reasons for their disagreement. How? By applying well known standards that the Judiciary has reinforced for generations when interpreting Equal Protection.

When the Supreme Court did this for the Montoy appeal in January, it specifically reversed the trial court by writing “We conclude that all of the funding differentials as provided by the [Act] are rationally related to a legitimate legislative purpose. Thus, the [Act] does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Kansas or United States Constitutions.”

It would seem, then, that the only question left is whether Kansas’ overall spending on K-12 is enough to satisfy Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution by being “suitable”. The Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that current funds are not suitable, then gave the Legislature a few months to make it good.

Further word from the Supreme Court was issued, perhaps ominously, on April 15, tax day for millions of Americans. It ordered additional briefs responding to many questions, including demands for justification of: disparities in K-12 funding between districts; the “weighting” of some categories of students more or less than others; failure to automatically increase special education funds by annual inflation; and, all disparities based on actual costs per pupil.

All are Equal Protection questions. Are these really the same judges that just gave the finance plan a clean Equal Protection bill of health? The Court throws logic out the window when it says all funding differentials are rationally related to legitimate purposes, then sneers that they are the result of political bargains.

Explanation: the Court’s upcoming decision will probably make new constitutional law.

The Court’s only remaining path of legal reasoning to indict the K-12 formula is with Article 6 which says “the legislature shall make suitable provision for finance”. There is no legal precedent for interpreting this phrase. None from Kansas; only a couple other states that use the term “suitable” in this context and none of their cases offer guidance either.

Thus, the Supreme Court is free to declare that “suitable” means whatever it chooses. Maybe they’ll pluck from their favorite dictionary definitions. “Suitable” could easily become like Equal Protection on steroids, meaning anything the Court might eventually consider “fair”. There’s no current standard for evaluating it, so the Court can use it to reject any fix the Legislature might negotiate. At least when the plaintiffs first filed suit, they were shooting at a stationary target. And when the trial court ruled, however wrong its conclusion, at least it was using an established legal standard.

Worse still, consider the Court’s deep inquiry into the fairness of finance plan details. Its recent questions sound like those posed by someone wanting to micro-manage the Legislature’s response. But the separation of legal power is not like that strip of border grass that sometimes you mow, sometimes your neighbor does. It must be a constitutional firewall.

One of the court’s questions last week was more revealing and politically charged than the rest. What’s the “constitutional significance” of failing to name a future source of K-12 funding? The answer should emphatically be “None”. Only judges pretending to be legislators would ask that question in the first place.

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Bob L. Corkins is executive director of the Freestate Center for Liberty Studies. The Freestate Center is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit, Topeka based research institute for advancing the Constitutional principles of limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise and traditional family values. Freestate is organized under IRS ‘ 501(c)(3).

Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas

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