Traditionally Republican Kansas, of all places, is the latest battleground in a fight for supremacy pitting judges against the other branches of government. Justices there are unmoved by the fact that Kansans voted for President George W. Bush, who campaigned against judicial activism.
On Jan. 3. the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the Kansas legislature to appropriate more money for public schools. According to the National Center for Education statistics, Kansas spends $8,206 per pupil per year, but the judges said the state must spend much more to give schoolchildren the "suitable" education guaranteed by the state constitution.
The Montoy v. Kansas decision implied that the state must spend an additional $850 million or more annually on public schools. The court then suspended its final order to goad the legislature to raise taxes by a court-imposed deadline of April 12.
Since when do judges tell legislatures what laws to pass and what taxes to levy? If any governmental function is (or should be) a legislative function, it is imposing taxes and spending citizen money.
The Kansas judges cowardly issued their decision unsigned so voters cannot hold any particular one politically accountable. The citizens of Kansas should vote them all out of office the first time they get the opportunity.
Without national media coverage, litigating lawyers and supremacist judges have been using the judiciary to take control of public schools. In the last 18 months, more spending has been ordered by state supreme courts in Kansas, New York, North Carolina and Montana, and by trial judges in Massachusetts and Texas.
Public schools in 24 states are facing lawsuits from special-interest groups trying to get activist judges to order taxpayers to spend more on schools, money that can come only from higher taxes. Courts are micromanaging schools, telling them how much money to spend and on what, right down to making decisions about computers and textbooks.
After 10 years of litigation, the New York Court of Appeals ruled that the state must spend much more money to provide schoolchildren a "sound, basic education." A court-appointed panel then ordered the state to spend an additional $5.6 billion, plus $9 billion on new classrooms, laboratories, libraries and other facilities, making tax increases inevitable.
In Montana, the state supreme court decided in November 2004 that the school financing system is fatally flawed and ordered the legislature to appropriate more money to give children "a basic system of free, quality public elementary and secondary schools." Kentucky is still in court 16 years after activist judges first intervened to tell the state how to run its schools.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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