June 8, 2023

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Dem Leaders Request Interim Committee on School Finance

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Legislative leadership will consider whether to create an interim committee on school finance in light of the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent school finance ruling, Senate President Susan Wagle said in a response to Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley and House Minority Leader Rep. Jim Ward.

Kansas Supreme Court justices determined that existing school funding is inadequate and inequitable. They gave lawmakers an April 30, 2018, deadline to adopt a different funding mechanism and submit it to the Court for consideration.

Hensley and Ward requested the creation of an interim committee and a four-day schedule to gather input from stakeholders. The committee would make recommendations for a new finance formula to legislators when the 2018 session begins in January.

“We cannot wait until January 2018 to begin working to remedy these constitutional violations,” a letter from Hensley and Ward to Wagle reads.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle

Wagle responded that leadership must consider whether an interim committee “is an efficient and productive use of the time and resources of both legislators and staff,” she wrote. “Given the dim view the Kansas Supreme Court has taken with regard to the school finance work previously performed by legislative staff, we must carefully reflect on whether any meaningful work product can come from such a quickly convened interim committee that the Court would deem credible.”

Hensley and Ward worry that the Courts might order schools closed if lawmakers miss the April 30 deadline.

“Anything short of prompt action on this issue jeopardizes the continuity of our children’s education. The Legislature cannot ignore its constitutional duty and be the cause of a statewide school shutdown,” their letter to Wagle reads.

The Court didn’t threaten to close schools in its most recent ruling, but Justices have made the threat in the past. A state law prohibits the Court from preventing the Kansas State Treasurer from writing checks, a potential remedy the Court could use to try to close schools. However, the law has never been tested in Court.

Wagle says she is concerned about the potential closure of schools by judicial order.

“Any legislative response to the Court’s recent opinion will necessarily be complex,” Wagle wrote. “We are reviewing various options available to the Legislature to assure that the education of public school students in Kansas is secured in a way that is both adequate and equitable under our state constitution.”

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