Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and House Speaker Ron Ryckman didn’t make any pledges, but they gave attendees an idea of how they prefer to deal with a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to add more funding to Kansas schools.
Both legislative leaders addressed Kansas Republican delegates to the Third Congressional delegates during the state’s party convention over the weekend.
Ryckman told the crowd of more than 50 people in Wichita that he would prefer a constitutional amendment in order to create a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing school funding war between the legislature and the state supreme court. In its most recent school financing opinion, the Court gave the legislature a failing grade ruling its recently-adopted school finance formula unconstitutional. The justices gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to submit a new one.
He didn’t specify what such an amendment would look like. However, he said currently the Court is defining both ‘equity’ and ‘adequacy.’ Attorney General Derek Schmidt told an interim legislative committee studying the issue last December, that traditionally courts have ruled on equity, but court rulings on adequacy tend to invite the risk of constitutional crisis.
“It squarely pits the judiciary’s constitutional duty to determine what the law is against the Legislature’s constitutional duty to control the public purse strings,” Schmidt said in December. “Given that unique dynamic, perhaps the people should be asked to resolve the matter when the two branches of their state government come to an impasse.”
School funding advocates say $600 million in new school funding will appease the Court, but Denning told Kansas Republican Third District delegates he isn’t interested in raising taxes to resolve the school finance controversy.
Though the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on school funding is the biggest issue facing lawmakers this session, they have yet to do much work on the topic. Lawmakers are waiting a study on school funding conducted by Lori L. Taylor, a Texas A&M researcher. She is scheduled to submit her findings to lawmakers by March 15.