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Voice For Liberty

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.

Jayhawk Judgment

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.

Gambling for education

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

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.

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."

How children lose in the Kansas Legislature’s special session

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.

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.

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.

Senator Kay O’Connor

The Kansas City Star will not correct an inaccurate story regarding Kansas Senator Kay O'Connor.

Regarding School Finance from Senator Karin Brownlee

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.

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.

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.

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.

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".

More from Rep. Frank Miller

A press release from Kansas House Member Frank Miller, Republican from Independence.

Further Regarding The Sebelius Court Order
June 9, 2005

Thank you for your many responses to my last press release. I appreciate getting both those that agree with me as well as those that disagree with me. The responses are running about half agree and half disagree, however most of the “disagrees” are from educators. The pile of agree responses cut across a broad range of constituents in my district. As far as my meetings with individuals, the consensus is running almost 100% agree that the Sebelius Court has overstepped its authority. Let’s face it – most voters want to hold their elected legislators responsible for making laws, levying taxes, and appropriating funding. Who wants to have a few non-elected judges make these kinds of decisions?

Some have asked me “have we read the Constitution” – the answer is “YES”. Some say the legislature must obey the Sebelius court if they have a genuine concern for the children – the answer is “we do”, but we also have a concern for the parents of the children, and for those couples who have no children and retired citizens. The amount of tax that comes out of the pockets of the parents also hurts the children.

Base School funding on research, not feelings

On the surface, it would seem like smaller class sizes would produce better educational outcomes. Intuitively, this makes sense.

Research tells a different story, however.

Kansas Supreme Court Bypasses Voters Right to Representation

Following is a press release from Kansas House Member Frank Miller, Republican from Independence. I think he assesses the situation accurately.
Kansas Supreme Court By-Passes Voters Right to Representation

I am shocked and very alarmed that the Kansas Supreme Court by a unanimous decision would so boldly by-pass the authority of the legislature and directly appropriate funding for governmental functions.

Disgraceful decision will hurt Kansas

The Kansas Supreme Court's school finance decision is deeply flawed both in substance and in procedure. This five page judicial edict ( see case no. 92,032) announced January 3 is designed to pressure the legislature into voting for more spending for public schools without saying by how much. Many tax and spend advocates are now claiming the court is requiring a tax hike, but no such specific language is contained within this decision.

I, Government

I, Government
Published in The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, October 2002 by D.W. MacKenzie
Click here to read the article.

This article illustrates just how large government at all levels has become.

Do we really want governments so powerful that they can do the things described in this article?

How have we let this happen? Will we ever be able to shrink the size and intrusiveness of government? Even under a president who labels himself a conservative, government spending has grown rapidly. Even the most modest proposals to take away power from the government and give it back to the people appear to have no chance of success. The proposal for social security private accounts is an example of this.

The Invasiveness of Government

by John D'Aloia Jr.
May 31, 2005

Trackside last discussed the use of the legislative process to feed the insatiable itch for power that overtakes elected officials. This past session a majority of Kansas state senators demonstrated the itch by passing SB45, a bill that would have given local jurisdictions the means to instantly collect past due property taxes by making the delinquency a cause for a court judgement against all the landowner's resources to settle the tax debt.

As stated in that Trackside, the ability to condemn or control private property is another route to increasing the power of government. With the Endangered Species Act (ESA), those who covet power found a mighty sword to use against both individual landowners and society. The ESA is infamous for its use as a means not to protect critters but to give government and narrow interest groups power over how citizens use their land and how they spend their money. Examples abound - one of the latest revolves around the endangered Riverside fairy shrimp in California. The Riverside fairy shrimp is a fresh-water shrimp, one-half to one inch long, that lives in mud puddles after it rains. The City of Los Angeles is going to have to remove 1.3 acres of top soil, an estimated 468 tons, using hand trowels, to "transplant" endangered Riverside fairy shrimp eggs from the Los Angeles Municipal Airport (LAX for you frequent flyers) to a preserve being created at the closed El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, said preserve to be maintained by the city. The Federal Aviation Administration refused to allow a reserve for them at LAX because it would have meant having the area covered by water for several months a year, attracting birds that could be sucked into jet engines. The debate has been going on for six years. The cost was not stated. The fairy shrimp has locked up thousands of acres in California, taken it off-limits for development. The shrimp's only value appears to be as an ecofascist tool for gaining control over private property and the use of tax dollars. This is not a productive use of the nation's wealth or a rationale for making tax slaves of citizens.

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