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Friday, March 7, 2014

Kansas ruling on school spending: Is it a crystal ball for Arkansas

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 1:22 PM

The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that it was unconstitutional for the state to cut school spending to cope with declining tax revenue. The cuts had an unfair burden on poor school districts, the court ruled. The case has parallels in Arkansas, not to mention future relevance.

The court ruling was important as a precedent because Kansas, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, made sweeping tax cuts in 2012 and 2013. The cuts were sold as trickle-down economics. But most expect that those further erosions of tax revenue will mean further erosion of school support, now held to be problematic under the Kansas Constitution.

The Arkansas Constitutions, too, calls for equal and adequate education. The Lakeview case standard has forced increased spending on schools by the legislature. But the new Republican majority has already pushed for some significant tax cuts and is hungering to enact more. Inevitably, the impact will roll downhill on schools, which receive nearly half of state general revenue. Said the article about Kansas:

Lawmakers could be forced to reconsider the tax measures, which Kansas and other Republican-run states have pushed as a means to stimulate their economies.

Yes, or they could flout the court and see what happens. Constitutions often are held in low regard by lawmakers. See Arkansas and its passage of unconstitutional limits on abortion. The Kansas article continues:

All states have language in their constitutions for providing public school funding. But Kansas' courts in the past have been strong and specific in spelling out how the state must carry out that responsibility, and education advocates wondered earlier this year whether the push in Kansas to base funding on costs - not political considerations - would continue, perhaps emboldening parents and educators in other states.

Brownback's personal income tax cuts will be worth nearly $3.9 billion over the next five years, and he has claimed that Kansas is leading a low-tax, small-government "American renaissance." 

Brownback hasn't yet come up with a plan to deal with delivering public services with insufficient money.

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