July 20, 2024

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Special Interim Committee Will Examine School Finance

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The Legislative Coordinating Council agreed to convene a special study committee to examine the most recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling. The 11-member committee will meet three times between now and the start of the 2018 legislative session.

During an LCC meeting Oct. 30, leadership from the Kansas House and the Kansas Senate agreed to three meetings to discuss potential remedies to the Court’s ruling that schools are not adequately funded. Democratic leaders requested the special committee meet four times, but the LCC panel settled on three days.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe

House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, both Republicans, wouldn’t rule out the possibility of special committee members discussing a Constitutional amendment to repeal Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution in response to the Court’s decision. The article, adopted by voters in 1966, says the legislature “shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

Ryckman said it might be appropriate to examine whether the Court is interpreting the article the way voters intended.

“I’d like to maybe go back to 1966 and see if the folks who voted thought that the word ‘suitable’ meant ‘adequate’ and ‘equal,'” Ryckman said.

The Court’s recent ruling said school funding isn’t adequate or equal. Neither word appears in Article 6 of the state constitution. Ryckman said voters might agree with the Court’s interpretation.

Denning said it might be time to put the question to them. He said this might be the last bite of the apple, and time for voters to decide if they agree with the Supreme Court.

The Court’s most recent ruling is one of several going back to 1992 in which Justices ruled school funding unconstitutional.

Leadership hasn’t yet announced which lawmakers will serve on the special interim committee. If the committee is crafted similar to other special committees, its makeup of 11 will include three Democrats–one from the Senate and two from the House. The remaining eight will be Republicans–four from the Senate and five from the House.

During the 2017 session, legislators adopted a new school funding mechanism that injected $300 million in new money for schools. The Court rejected their efforts, and justices gave lawmakers an April 30, 2018 deadline to draft another school financing formula for judicial review. In their opinion, justices didn’t say what dollar amount is “adequate,” but plaintiffs in the lawsuit have said it will require another $600 million. That amount would require a tax increase on the heels of the largest tax increase in state history.

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