Wednesday, August 4

Kansas Justice Institute launched

A press release from Kansas Policy Institute.

Accountability For Outcomes Needed In New Formula, System Failing Too Many Kids

New Legal Organization to be Launched, Fight for Right of Individual Students & Other Kansans
May 1 — Topeka – A major announcement on school finance greeted legislators in the statehouse today as they returned from their April break. Legislators left early last month for their annual break without addressing the on-going Gannon school finance litigation and a group of Kansans made an announcement today that may impact how the legislature moves forward. Kansas Policy Institute, former Kansas House Speaker Mike O’Neal, and education reform activist Pastor Wade Moore joined together to let all Kansans know that a new Kansas Justice Institute will be fighting for equal access to education established under state constitutional provisions as well as other constitutional issues (i.e., civil asset forfeiture, occupational licensing). Given the current status of the proposed new school funding formula, its first case could be representing students who are not being given access to the education they deserve.

Dave Trabert, president of Kansas Policy Institute, offered the following, “We’re delighted and honored to be working with the Institute for Justice — the nation’s law firm for liberty.  Each year seems to bring more government encroachment on Kansans’ liberty, and something needs to be done.  The Kansas Justice Institute will be there to fight for citizens on school choice, civil asset forfeiture, personal property rights, occupational licensing and many other invasions of personal liberty.”
Specifically on K-12 finance and the current session Trabert said, “We hope the legislature will craft a formula that holds schools accountable for outcomes and requires any new money to be used for the exclusive, direct benefit of the 25% of students that the Court correctly identified as not meeting standards. But, if the legislature does not and students are not getting the education they deserve, then KJI will be there to represent parents and students as they fight to get the education each Kansas kid deserves.”

Kansas Justice Institute will be a new litigation center modeled on the renowned Institute for Justice (IJ), a national non-profit law firm that litigates to limit the size and scope of government power and to ensure that all Americans have the right to control their own destinies as free and responsible members of society.  The Kansas Justice Institute will do much the same for Kansans including fighting for equal access to public education established under state constitutional provisions.

Among many topics covered at today’s press conference, held in the Kansas Statehouse, is the need for more accountability for outcomes in K-12 education and in potential legislative remedy to Gannon. Over the life of the old formula school funding increased from $2.3 billion to $6.1 billion, setting another record for per-pupil spending last year and increasing 40% above long-term inflation. Despite this enormous funding increase, achievement remains unacceptably low for many students, especially low income students.What’s more, At Risk funding for low income kids increased by about $350 million since 2005 with no requirement that the money be used for the direct, exclusive benefit of the At Risk students. Meaning much of it was spent elsewhere.
Mike O’Neal, former Speaker of the Kansas House, addressed the legal aspects at today’s press event, “Between the Montoy and Gannon rulings, much has changed since 1993. There is a recognition of a constitutional right and new definition of “adequate” coupled with statutory standards. The Court has essentially paved the way for students in under-performing schools to have a legal remedy if their schools’ allocation of resources is not directed to addressing their educational needs and outcomes. We’re here to call attention to this constitutional guarantee of an education as a personal guarantee for each individual student.”

Pastor Wade Moore of Success for Kansas Students and founder of Urban Preparatory Academy in Wichita spoke at the press conference and said, “Our current educational system is to failing too many Kansas kids. All kids can learn and Urban Prep. is seeing success in helping the low income students who walk through our doors. This is a demand for change. We cannot just keep pushing kids along. Not only is a quality education a legal, constitutional right, it is a moral right. It is a moral right that our state is not honoring.” Pastor Moore pointed out the success their students are having is based on the STAR testing, an evaluation method used by public schools both within Kansas and around the country.

The Institute for Justice, the National Law Firm for Liberty, said the following upon learning about the launch of KJI, “The Institute for Justice enthusiastically welcomes a new member in the fight for liberty in America’s courts. We look to exploring opportunities to collaborate in the fight to bring greater protection for individual liberty to the people of Kansas.”

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Kansas Policy Institute is an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans.  Our work centers on state and local economic policy with primary emphasis on education, fiscal policy and health care.  We empower citizens, legislators and other government officials with objective research and creative ideas to promote a low-tax, pro-growth environment that preserves the ability of governments to provide high quality services.