Trying to do its Best

After the debates in the Legislature, the debates at the Court have begun.

The Kansas Supreme Court has started to hear arguments in the school funding case. Up for a decision: whether the Legislature has satisfied the Court’s previous rulings. John Milburn reports for the Lawrence Journal-World.

Alan Rupe argues that “We’re back because school funding remains inadequate and inequitable and does not reflect actual and necessary costs.”
Actual costs? If you define actual by “extrapolating from what we do now, in a closed system.” But in a more free system of education, in which the funding follows the child and is not sent first to school districts, the amount what is necessary may be less–or more.

The attorney for the State Board of Education, however, seems to have fallen into the “wouldn’t be prudent” argument. It may be correct, but it’s hardly a winner.

“It is a large sum of money over a large period of time,” Dan Biles, the State Board of Education’s attorney said. “We have to figure out, are we talking about the precision of surgery or legislation?

Alok Ahuja, another attorney in the case, was on more solid ground:

He said even the [post-audit] study acknowledged that legislators had to sift through various scenarios, assumptions and policy choices before settling on how much to spend and how to distribute any new dollars.

Rupe and the school districts he represents want another $985 million. If the account in the Lawrence-Journal reads, he, and they, will get it.

In the KC Star, Jim Sullinger provides another account. It constains these interesting paragraphs:

Toward the end of the hearing, Justice Eric Rosen noted that student proficiency standards continued to rise each year, increasing the costs to education.

“If you multiply it out over five to 10 years, it seems to me it would consume the entire budget of the state,” he said. “Where do you draw the line?”

Two observations are in order. First, a sky’s-the-limit approach is unrealistic. Second, the relationship between funding and achievement is not as strong as is commonly assumed.

The article suggests that all sides are weary about the case. We hope so. Then again, funding decisions are the bread and butter of politics. We wish that they would go back to the Legislature, however.

Finally, Scott Rothchild provides another review of the courtroom proceedings. He provides some additional insights. One, the court doesn’t appear to care about the fiscal impact of their decision: it is to be implemented, regardless of protests that the bill is “massive.”

Two, the most likely outcome may be no outcome–the Supreme Court will remand the case to a lower court. Three, the SBOE got a more alert lawyer than we had first thought:

“Dan Biles, an attorney representing the State Board of Education, dismissed education cost studies in general, saying they are “something close to alchemy.”

Three, even a give-them-what-they-want scenario has its problems: Chief Justice Kay McFarland said there was no way schools could absorb the amount of money Rupe wanted in a short period of time.

Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
%d bloggers like this: