"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Teaching Common Sense?

November 26th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

The Turner Report informed us last week that former Speaker Pro Tem Carl Bearden has added another client to his lobbying roster. The new client is the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. AFP touts itself as a national not-for-profit organization committed to educating citizens about economic policy. Below is a op-ed sent to us written by Mr. Bearden called “Teaching Common Sense.”

by Carl Bearden

A stubborn, and disturbingly costly, lawsuit against the State of Missouri continues to be pursued by nearly half of Missouri’s 524 public school districts against the State. After years of litigation, and two resounding decisions against the suit this year by Cole County circuit court judge Richard Callahan, the plaintiffs are determined to put taxpayers on the hook for even more than the $3.2 million already spent. Ironically, the point of the suit is to shake down taxpayers for even more money fighting paper tigers.

In 1993, Missouri’s school finance system was ruled unconstitutional on equity grounds, meaning that funds were not fairly distributed to the school districts. Missouri’s legislature subsequently enacted the School Improvement Act of 1993, which required an extensive overhaul of the funding formula, increased school funding by raising taxes, improved funding equity and instituted education reforms such as standards and assessments.

Nevertheless, in 2004 the Committee for Educational Equality (CEE) filed an “equity and adequacy” lawsuit against the State of Missouri, claiming that the education finance system had become unconstitutional, and that Missouri did not direct enough money to public education.

In fact, in 2006 Missouri spent about $2.7 billion in basic aid to its public schools, distributed under a formula that sets a per-pupil spending target based on spending levels of schools that scored perfect marks on a state performance report. State budget officials testified during the trial that Missouri spent nearly 36 percent of its budget on public education, clearly beyond the 25 percent minimum stipulated in Article IX of the Missouri Constitution.

Callahan ruled against CEE and its two co-plaintiffs, the Committee to Fund Excellent Schools (CFES) and the St. Louis City School Board. Judge Callahan determined that the law of Missouri is very clear in granting the State legislature with the power to set the public school funding formula.

Indeed, Callahan’s reasoned decision has brought some school districts involved in the suit to their senses. Francis Howell School District, Liberty School District, Naylor School District and St. Joseph School District all have bowed out in recent days after realizing the soundness of Callahan’s ruling.

In early October a sunshine request revealed that CEE had spent $1.9 million, CFES had spent $695,000 and the St. Louis Public School District had expenses of $596,000, or nearly $3.2 million total on the lawsuit. Add the $1.4 million spent by the State Attorney General’s office and the complete tab for taxpayers is already $4.6 million. Additionally, $800,000 was donated by private citizens acting as defense intervenors.

Missouri’s spending formula for public education has involved the legislative, judicial and executive branches in the past two decades in revamping and refining the funding process, suitably addressing all reasonable requests for re-evaluation. The government has diligently moved forward, as Governor Matt Blunt has stated that “the new formula has helped me deliver more than a half-billion dollar increase to Missouri classrooms without a tax increase, (while) the lawsuit was designed to mandate a billion dollar tax increase on Missouri families.”

All Missouri children deserve the opportunity for access to a quality education. However, the continued expenditure of educational funds and other associated tax dollars for a misguided and erroneous demand, however, does nothing to achieve that objective. School officials who continue to pursue this frivolous lawsuit demonstrate fiscal responsibility for neither their students nor their taxpayers, and should be held accountable for their reckless actions.

With the facts clearly before them, the unreasonable plaintiffs of this lawsuit should cease their fight against imaginary enemies and focus on providing a quality education with the ample resources already given to them. Otherwise, they will have to answer to taxpayers.

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  • 1 Mysti // Nov 26, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    It looks like Beardon has the right idea. This lawsuit is ridiculous and I hope all the other districts follow the example of Liberty and Francis Howell and pull out! It is only wasting money that should hav been used to buy books!!!

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