In scanning through a Topeka Capital-Journal article on the impending school finance debate in the Kansas legislature, the reader gets the impression that a character named “Alan Rupe” has more control over the outcome of this debate than Senate President Susan Wagle, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, or even Gov. Sam Brownback.
At the heart of the debate is the presumed need to sate the ever growing hunger of the Kansas Supreme Court for more tax money to finance K-12 public education.
“This is going to be a very difficult session,” said Wagle. “$600 million is an awful lot of money, and the demands in this ruling are very far-reaching, and they’re putting the hammer down and saying do it now.”
According to the Capital-Journal’s Allison Kite, the Kansas State Board of Education is asking for another $600 million on top of last year’s additions.
Kite follows that fact with a sentence whose casual tone highlights what is wrong with the Court’s subversion of the democratic process, “Alan Rupe, an attorney for the plaintiff school districts, has called for that amount.”
Oh, Alan Rupe has called for that amount? Just who is Alan Rupe? And what kind of system gives that much power to a guy no one ever elected or appointed or even heard of? Rupe, a trial attorney, wants your money, and he doesn’t much care how you raise it.
Wagle thinks she has ruled out still another tax increase. “My legislators are repulsed at the thought of another tax increase,” she said. “It’s just not going to happen.”
Rupe thinks otherwise. “If the Legislature thinks they can accomplish this without new resources to replace the resources that were removed in the great experiment that failed, I think they’re in dream land,” said Rupe who feels sufficiently comfortable in his power to mock the legislature and the governor.
“They really need to concentrate on additional resources,” he continued, “and to simply say that’s a non-starter is a way of saying we’re not going to comply.”
By “new resources” Rupe means new taxes. With the court on his side, he is confident Wagle will eventually submit.
Rupe is the managing partner of Lewis Brisbois. In addition to whatever compensation he has received for suing Kansas, Rupe has reaped considerable glory. Boasts his firm’s website: “Mr. Rupe receives ongoing national attention and recognition for his successful prosecution of cases relating to the constitutionality of the funding of K-12 public education.”
In fact, Rupe won a major award for “years of outstanding lawyering and lobbying and perseverance in the face of many obstacles, including brash insults” on the Kansas case. Brash insults?
Brash insults or not, Rupe has no inherent concern for the people of Kansas or the other agencies their tax dollars support. Elected officials do.
“We’re tasked with looking at the entire state and the needs and the core services of the entire state, not just what the plaintiffs’ attorneys want us to do,” Ryckman said.
As to the possibility of a constitutional amendment to rein in the court, KNEA lobbyist Mark Desetti, a Rupe ally, called that so much “posturing.”
“I’m expecting at some point cooler heads to prevail and people to get down to work to do what’s right,” said Desetti. By “cooler” Desetti means “more submissive.”
To read this Capital-Journal article carefully, alas, is to understand how submission has become the order of the day.