Statement opposing Kansas tax funded lawsuits

By Karl Peterjohn, delivered to the Wichita school board at the January 4, 2010 meeting.

As the parent of children attending Wichita Public Schools I am here tonight as a citizen, a taxpayer, a parent, and not as a county commissioner.

The news reports that I have seen indicate that the Wichita school board is about to join another lawsuit against the state of Kansas. The news reports indicate that this will cost $5 per pupil or about $250,000 in tax funds. However, the news reports did not indicate if this was a total cost, or just an annual cost. I believe that the total cost of school lawsuits that sue for higher taxes needs to be included in the record. I would appreciate an answer to this question.

This school district perpetually claims that it is short of funds but your adopted 2010 budget indicates that spending has grown dramatically for this school district. There is never enough money for the classrooms but there always seems to be plenty of money for travel, for lobbying, and sadly, for lawsuits.

Four years ago the Wichita public schools spent almost $477 million or about $10,525 in local, state, and federal tax funds per FTE pupil. Last year the district spent almost $574 million or about $12,590 per pupil. This board passed a budget of over $620 million that would grow this figure to over $13,000 per pupil—these figures are all taken from your 2010 adopted budget. That is an increase over last year’s spending of over 8 percent.

The Wichita public schools $620 million budget is being reduced by the state budget cuts by $34 million according to these news reports. If the district loses $34 million, that will reduce the budget to $586 million. The last time I checked $586 million is still more than $574 million. That is still a 2 percent increase over last year’s spending.

Let’s not use part of this spending growth on more lawsuits and litigation. We are a democratic republic but these lawsuits are in the process of turning Kansas into a judicial oligarchy. This is not a governmental legacy that I want to leave for my children, my family, or my community.

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