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Debate: Suing for school funding, there and here…

Source: The Salt Lake Tribune

Here, last week:

— Alliance for a Better Utah preparing to sue state over school funding — Benjamin Wood | The Salt Lake Tribune

“If Utah lawmakers won’t increase school funding on their own, maybe the courts will make them.

“That’s the strategy behind an upcoming lawsuit by the Alliance for a Better Utah, which argues that state leaders have failed in their constitutional duty to adequately fund the public education system.

“ ‘If they’re going to keep making excuses, then we’re going to take action,’ said Chase Thomas, associate director of policy and advocacy for the progressive-leaning group. …”

There, today:

— Kansas Supreme Court: School funding inequitable — The Wichita Eagle

“The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Legislature has inequitably funded schools and gave lawmakers until June 30 to work out a plan that meets constitutional requirements.

“The justices signaled that if the Legislature fails to craft a solution by the end of the fiscal year, it could lead to a court-ordered shutdown of schools …

“ … The case was split into two questions: Is the overall funding adequate, and is school funding being equitably distributed to districts?

“Thursday’s decision dealt only with the equity portion of the case, which is further along. …”

— Gov. Sam Brownback and Kansas lawmakers need to fix school funding crisis they created — Kansas City Star Editorial

“ … Because of the devastating tax cuts and other decisions made on Brownback’s watch, Kansas government now operates in a perpetual state of fiscal crisis. Even a brief closure of public schools would irreparably damage the state’s credibility and national standing. …”

Of course, members of the Kansas Legislature, controlled by lawmakers so conservative they might even scare their counterparts in Utah, have raised multiple fits at the suggestion that the nobodies of their state supreme court can tell them what to do. They’ve threatened to limit the court’s jurisdiction and slash its budget.

But the constitutional underpinning of a Utah suit would be based on a similar, if similarly squishy, language in their respective state charters.

Article 10 of the Utah Constitution requires: “The Legislature shall provide for the establishment and maintenance of the state’s education systems including: (a) a public education system, which shall be open to all children of the state; and (b) a higher education system. Both systems shall be free from sectarian control.”

Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution commands: “The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools…”

The Kansas Supremes have ruled more than once that “establishing and maintaining” requires a level of funding necessary for the schools to do their job. Whether the Legislature wants to or not.

No guesses here as to whether the justices of the Utah Supreme Court would interpret the word “maintenance” the same way.


— Morality, not courts, demands adequate school funding — Public Forum | The Salt Lake Tribune

“The Alliance for a Better Utah is threatening to sue the state if adequate funding is not provided for public education. It cites South Carolina as a state sued for this purpose (Abbeville v. South Carolina). I was working in South Carolina when I assisted a low-wealth district to sue the state for adequate funding.

“That was more than 20 years ago. Although the Supreme Court ruled in the schools’ favor, the Legislature has refused to provide the adequate funding required by the court’s decision. The problem is that the court has no enforcement ability other than to hold the Legislature in contempt. This does nothing to force it to provide adequate funding. …

“ … Don Thomas, Salt Lake City”

— Utah teacher shortage reflects lack of respect — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

“ ‘The beatings will continue until morale improves.’ …

“ … Long hours, low pay and a lack of appreciation have always been a problem for professional teachers. In some states, elected officials at least give lip service to the idea that those problems should be addressed, even if tight budgets and political gamesmanship leave those pledges unfulfilled. In Utah, though, the climate is often downright poisonous.

“Teachers as a profession, and public education as an institution, get far too little respect, much less money, from politicians eager to score anti-union, anti-intellectual points with their constituencies. Constituencies bent far to the right by the state’s caucus and convention nominating system. …”

Read The Salt Lake Tribune article here.

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