The editorial writers at the Wichita Eagle are condescendingly mad, because Kansas Republicans might advance a ballot initiative to tweak the Kansas Constitution. The Eagle ed board’s latest snark fest expresses opposition to a proposal by Sen. Dennis Pyle, a Hiawatha Republican, who announced he will seek a constitutional amendment that would prevent the Kansas Supreme Court from closing schools.
Legislators have every right to offer a myriad of possible solutions for what is likely to be the next legislature vs. court showdown in the ongoing school funding war. But as usual, the Eagle writers miss every relevant point in their editorial efforts to take the Court’s side in the endless conflict.
“This isn’t the right way to challenge the Court’s authority, and certainly not at the right time,” the editorial reads.
Of course, the writers never say when the right time to challenge the Court’s authority might be, but they advocate for increasing taxes nevertheless. They reason that voters opted to retain five judges who were on the ballot in 2016.
“Kansas voters were either pleased with the job of their justices or didn’t think they were doing such a poor job that they shouldn’t be retained,” the editorial reads.
Voters were also responsible for electing every member of the Kansas Legislature in 2016. The entire makeup of the legislature was on the ballot, and they adopted a school financing scheme after vetting their options in public hearings throughout the session.
By the Eagle’s logic, perhaps the best way to determine how schools should be financed is allowing the person who received the highest number of votes in the last election to make the call. That would be Sen. Jerry Moran, for what it’s worth. Among Kansas Supreme Court members, the justice who received the most votes for retention was Caleb Stegall. No one would argue for either Moran or Stegall to determine school funding on their own, but that’s essentially the logic the editorial writers use. If that sounds nonsensical, that’s because it is.
The Eagle writers outline how Justices become members of the state Supreme Court. They gloss over some critical pieces of information. They write that court members are appointed by the Governor. That is misleading. The Governor must appoint from a short list submitted to him by unelected attorneys. It’s not as if Gov. Brownback handpicked the Court. In fact, only one Supreme Court Justice was appointed by the current Governor, and he did not rule in the school finance case.
“While they’re on the bench, we expect them to uphold the law–and in the case of school funding–make objective decisions based on what’s best for public school students,” the editorial reads.
What’s best for public school students isn’t really the Kansas Supreme Court’s charge. It’s interpreting the Kansas Constitution, no more and no less. The law allows citizens to weigh in on what the law is, in part, by electing lawmakers and in part, by amending the state constitution.