Friday, June 23, 2006

Strange things people say

The long-running legal dispute over the size and distribution of state education funding returned to the Kansas Supreme Court yesterday. While nothing was resolved, the Wichita Eagle suggests that the court is looking for a way out of the issue. And it's certainly reasonable to ask, as Justice Eric Rosen did, "Where does this end?" It's true that the legislative audit found that rising standards were one factor raising the cost of education, and that we hope those standards never decline and never are held constant.

The legislature didn't manage to meet the letter of Court's previous order, but it's hard to deny that they made a good faith effort to cobble together a series of funding increases which will ultimately improve education.

I will say that the legislature should have been more careful in hiring a lawyer, because this seems like an embarrassing mistake:
Stephen McAllister, recently hired as the Legislature's lawyer, said the auditors' report and a previous consultant's study the Legislature commissioned helped lawmakers understand school funding.

"The cost studies, of course, are relevant," he said. "They're not fact."
They are models built on assumptions, and as the great Yogi Berra is reported to have said (but Niels Bohr actually said), "prediction is very hard, particularly of the future." The reports are facts for the court to consider, but not statements of absolutely what must be spent. McAllister is at worst simply wrong, at best quite ambiguous. While the precise estimates varied from report to report, there was remarkable consistency of the estimates around a number larger than the legislature allocated. And that's a fact.