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Monday, December 17, 2012

Beebe asks to file brief in school finance case

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 4:11 PM

This is kind of interesting. Gov. Mike Beebe has filed a petition with the Arkansas Supreme Court for permission to file an amicus brief in the request for a rehearing of the school finance case I mentioned earlier today. Beebe has already said he agrees with dissenters, who said the decision to let two school districts hang onto everything they generate from the required 25-millage property tax upends the spending equity demanded by earlier Supreme Court decisions.

(Blog reader PVNasby earlier today put the crux of this better than anything I've read to date. He wrote: "Why should taxpayers in wealthy districts pay less than 25 mills to the state equalization pot, while the rest of us pay a full 25 mills?")

Beebe essentially says the court should give him leave to opine in the case because of his long years as a state senator, attorney general and governor and deep involvement with the school finance issue, including leadership of the campaign for the constitutional amendment meant to address school funding issues. He is "uniquely positioned," the request said, "to offer a respectual amicus curae brief on the issues." Beebe said he was mindful of separation of power issues and the court's "unquestioned role" in interpreting the Constitution and law. "In this case, however, the governor respectfully submits the court has erred and that a rehearing is warranted ....."

Here's both the request to intervene and the brief itself, which emphasizes that local school districts ARE protected in keeping excess money if they raise taxes beyond the 25-mill base rate. Beebe said it was no easy task to draw up a system both equitable and adequate. He comments in closing, "With respect, the court's decision in this case weakens the glue that must remain strong if an equitable and adequate funding system is to be maintained."

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