Issues, Kansas

Interesting to see this coming up in the news again, especially after the legislature took action to correct the matter after the initial ruling.

“Acting on earlier direction from the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee County District Court panel concluded that current funding falls short of what are called the “Rose standards,” a multi-part test for adequacy of school spending outlined in a Kentucky case and adopted by courts across the country.” Court rules school funding is inadequate under Kansas Constitution, The Wichita Eagle

For those unfamiliar, with regard to the constitutional requirements of the state in matters of educational funding, the Kansas constitution states:

The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. Article 6, Section 6, part B

The “educational interests of the state” are then further outlined in KSA 72-1127. It’s a fairly complicated entanglement of principles, made more difficult since the base cost to accomplish those goals has no definite number (what the court calls a “bright line”). But as such, the courts stopped short of actually telling the legislature how much they had to fund, and only declared that the current funding levels clearly cannot satisfy KSA 72-1127.

The real struggle that’s interesting is finding where that balance is between being flat out underfunded, and just being asked to create new efficiencies which tighter budgets. Obviously it’s not a bad thing to evaluate if we’re overpaying for educational outcomes. It’s tough though when there isn’t so much a line in the sand, as you’re just dealing with a zone that encompasses the whole beach.

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Kansas, Politics

The Power of the Purse

Exciting news coming out of Topeka this week, as a panel of economists have determined that through 2016, Kansas is expected to have nearly a billion dollar shortfall. Naturally, Democrats are dancing in the streets declaring this to be evidence of Brownback’s epic failure in tax policy. Administration Republicans are stoically optimistic, confident that good times are coming, and in the mean time see being forced to scale back as A Good Thing™. “Living within our means,” they call it. The reality is, the Republicans are more right than wrong in the matter. The budget isn’t nearly so simple as “fire bad, tree pretty.”

They certainly are far from right though, too. The trick is in how we, as a state, find opportunity in the position we are in. One of the important lessons in Buddhism is the idea that good and bad are very fluid, relative concepts. The worst event in your life can simultaneously be the catalyst for the best. Being put under financial stress gives us a great opportunity to do work that we otherwise don’t (or won’t) do when our budget is flush. Rather than making a mockery of Brownback’s failings in this area, or complaining about how hard the next four years will be, Democrats should be focusing on how to find success strategies within the scaffolding available. If Brownback and company truly fail Kansas, we’re all hurt by it. That leaves only room for constructive countermoves, not criticism and vitriol. As a result, my patience for the “Brownback is destroying Kansas” troupe is somewhat limited. Complain less, do more.

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