Gov. Jeff Colyer hasn’t formally issued a statement on how he would like to see lawmakers deal with what could become a constitutional standoff between the court and the legislative branch. However, he told guests at a luncheon on Tuesday that the solution to financing schools will require a multi-year approach.
“This is going to take several years to do it,” he said. “Over a multi-year thing, that’s what we do.”
Legislators are wrangling with a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to adopt a new school finance formula that is both adequate and equitable. Though the Court’s opinion didn’t name a price, most believed appeasing the Courts would require up to $600 million in new funds. A study commissioned by the legislature, however, recommended lawmakers infuse schools with $2.1 billion more to help students meet higher academic standards. The study didn’t say how the extra money should be spent but warned that would be a key to achieving the desired outcomes. The study’s authors recommended phasing in new funding over the next five years.
Colyer told luncheon guests it’s imperative that schools remain open as the three branches of Kansas government wrestle with financing public schools. The Supreme Court’s recent decision didn’t threaten to close schools, but the Court has made such a threat in a past school funding decision.
Colyer’s speech closely mirrored an address he gave to lawmakers his first week in office.
“Bob Docking. Bob Bennett. John Carlin. Mike Hayden. Joan Finney. Bill Graves. Kathleen Sebelius. Mark Parkinson. Sam Brownback,” He listed. “Those are the last 10 governors. Five Democrats. Five Republicans. All of us have been under school litigation for the last 50 years.”
In addition to keeping schools open, he said a school financing solution needs to end the lawsuits. He didn’t expressly address tax increases, but he said the school financing question needs to be resolved in a way that Kansans can afford. Those are the marching orders he’s given to lawmakers, he said.
“We also have to have outcomes,” he told the crowd of about 50 Republicans.