Opinion: Kansas’ Brownback Slammed by Supreme Court a Third Time For Underfunding Schools

It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state's diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further.

Opinion: Kansas’ Brownback Slammed by Supreme Court a Third Time For Underfunding Schools

 

There is a running joke about Kansas, particularly targeting the state’s Republican governor and legislature that goes something like; “what the Hell is wrong with Kansas?” Everyone with a pulse knows what’s wrong and that includes the Kansas Supreme Court. Obviously, national Republicans, especially Donald Trump, also know what’s wrong and ye: t they lust to bring  “what’s wrong” in Kansas to the federal government so within a year the American people will be saying; “what the Hell is wrong with America?” The rest of the world has been asking that question since November 9, 2017, and they don’t even live here.

On Thursday, the Kansas Supreme Court, for the second time, ruled that due to Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s refusal to stop the state from hemorrhaging cash and jobs over unwarranted tax cuts, the state’s students are being short-changed in a very big way. The Court ruled that Brownback and the Republican-dominated legislature had again failed “to adequately fund public schools by hundreds of millions of dollars per year.” For the second time in two years the High Court ordered Republicans to do their jobs and come up with a plan that meets the state Constitution’s standards and mandated they follow a new formula to increase public education funding. The state Court gave Brownback and Republicans until the end of June to get their act together and abide by the state Constitution’s education funding requirements.

This latest blow to Brownback’s precious disaster of an “experiment” some Americans know as “trickle down” economics over public school funding is actually the third time the state’s High Court ruled Brownback and company’s tax cuts have resulted in unconstitutionally underfunding public education. There is a public fight going on in Kansas over whether Republicans should repeal Brownback’s “landmark tax cuts” for the rich and corporations. The tax cuts were sold over five years ago by Brownback and trickle down advocate Arthur Laffer as the one and only means of making everyone in Kansas a multi-millionaire, creating hundreds of millions of new jobs, and because the state will be bringing in drastically reduced revenue, the state’s coffers will be flush with new revenue.

The court’s unanimous decision was unsigned and stated:

We conclude the state’s public financing system, through its structure and implementation, is not reasonably calculated to have all Kansas public education students meet or exceed the minimum constitutional standards of adequacy.”

The court’s justices also noted that by underfunding public education, Republicans adequately funded private charters, the state’s Republicans forced Kansas’ public education system failed in one-fourth of all its public schools to appropriately educate students in basic reading and math skills. Not surprising whatsoever, Brownback and Republicans were seemingly deliberate in shortchanging half of the Kansas’ African American students and one-third of its Hispanic students.

That gross injustice wasn’t lost on one of the attorney’s representing the various school districts participating in the lawsuit, John Robb, who said this latest ruling, like the previous two, “represented justice for kids.” Mr. Robb noted that with the latest ruling and mandated formula, Kansas “could be forced” to spend an additional $431 to $893 million per year to come into compliance with the state’s Constitution.

All of this education horror began when Brownback took over as governor in 2011 and immediately passed historically large tax cuts; his promise to Kansas residents was that lower taxes for the rich and big business would automatically spur never-before seen economic growth and jobs. It is precisely what Republicans have “promised” since the Reagan era and a not-so-encouraging preview of precisely what Trump and congressional Republicans now plan to do at the federal level. It isn’t enough to wipe out Kansas’ economy, jobs, and education, Trump-Republicans want to enact those disastrous tax cuts for the rich and corporations leaving the nation with a monumental budget gap.

The  court previously, in 2013, ordered Brownback to provide an additional $400 million in education spending. The Court noted at the time that:

It seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further.”

That statement irked Brownback to no end resulting in him assailing the Court for increasing the tax burden on Kansas residents; he said it is up to him and Republicans, not the Supreme Court, to decide how much funding goes to education. Brownback is a typical Republican and refuses to acknowledge that the state’s High Court was not making school funding decisions, they were just following the mandate in the Kansas Constitution.

The second-to-last time the Kansas Court ruled that Brownback had to adhere to the state’s Constitution and adequately fund public education, he threw a tantrum and threatened to nullify the entire judiciary; that was in 2013. The last time the court ordered Brownback to follow the Constitution and adequately fund schools, this time in 2016, Brownback and the Republican legislature passed a law with language reading:

Any Judge who strikes down or modifies any law the legislature passes, for any reason, even if the law is unconstitutional and/or violates federal laws, the state legislature will impeach them” and throw them off the court. (author bold)

Last month Republicans planned on cutting millions more in education funding and slightly raising taxes to stop the revenue losses killing the state’s economy. Brownback was furious; not because of the massive education cuts, but because of rescinding a tiny portion of the tax cuts for the rich and corporations; so he promptly vetoed the effort. It is not clear, yet at least, if Brownback is making moves to “impeach” legislators who voted to rescind a part of the tax cuts.

It is important to know what is going on in Kansas because Brownback has been, along with trickle down con man Laffer, trusted economic advisors to the Trump. “Trickle down” Laffer has heaped an inordinate amount of praise on Trump’s tax plan despite the record failure of the devastation dating back to the 1980s. To have another go at destroying the economy like they did under Bush Jr., congressional Republicans were already on board, and in thrall, of Brownback’s economic handiwork that inspired Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to swoon around Brownback and tell him that Republicans were anxious to do “the exact same thing” in Washington as soon as they seized control of the entire government.

Republicans know their trickle down scam is exactly that; a stinking scam to heap more wealth on the already rich and their corporations at the expense of everything and everyone else. If any American thinks they won’t drastically cut education funding to help pay for those tax cuts, exactly like Brownback did in Kansas, they are simply stupid ignoramuses with no common sense and no memory.

The real disaster is that although education used to be important in America before Republicans needed more moron voters, there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution mandating a level of “adequate” funding for public schools and no protection from a Brownback disaster enacted by Trump-Republicans; and make no mistake, that Brownback-like disaster is on the very near horizon whether Trump is still in the White House or not.

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