Eleven lawmakers will be tasked with making school finance recommendations to the Kansas Legislature. The interim committee will meet three times between now and the start of the 2018 legislative session.
The committee will be comprised of five Senators and six House members. Members include House Republicans Blaine Finch of Ottawa, Troy Waymaster of Bunker Hill, Larry Campbell of Olathe, and Steven Johnson of Assaria, and House Democrats Ed Trimmer of Winfield and Valdenia Winn of Kansas City. Republican Senators include Molly Baumgardner of Louisburg, Jim Denning of Overland Park, Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick, and Rick Wilborn of McPherson. Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, will also serve on the committee.
The makeup of the committee may give an indication of solutions they may study. Denning, who serves as the Senate Majority Leader, voted to put a Constitutional question on the ballot that would limit the state Supreme Court’s authority in school finance cases in 2016. Senators needed 27 votes to put the question before voters, but the proposal fell one vote short.
Four days ago, he said the Court continues to strike down school funding bills approved by lawmakers who voters chose.
“One solution would be to let the voters reevaluate what ‘suitable’ means to them and take a vote on it,” he said.
The Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a financing formula legislators adopted during the 2017 session unconstitutional. The justices specifically noted that the formula wasn’t equitable or adequate.
Hensley, however, has said the Court is a co-equal branch of government. He has recommended adopting a finance formula that injects more money into public schools. Lawmakers approved an additional $300 million for schools last session, but that didn’t meet the Court’s muster. The Court didn’t say how much money would be required in a new formula, but plaintiffs in the ongoing school financing lawsuit have suggested $600 million might do the trick.
No matter what the interim committee recommends, any new formula will require passage in both the House and Senate by April 2018 to meet a Court-mandated deadline.