The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in October that the state’s current education funding of more than $4 billion a year is not sufficient under the state constitution.
The Court looked at the Kansas Constitution’s mandate that schools receive adequate funding. It also looked at whether funding was equitable, with money fairly divided between property-wealthy and property-poor districts. The current funding formula failed on both counts.
The Legislature was told to fix this with a fair and adequate formula by April 30.
The Legislature has given up denying that it is upholding the constitution. Its new plan is to change the constitution.
The Kansas House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday advanced a measure that would declare “the power to establish adequacy of financing for education as exclusively within the legislative power of the state.” To heck with the Supreme Court — adequacy means whatever we say is adequate.
For this to become a constitutional amendment, it will need to pass both the House and Senate with a two-thirds majority — 84 votes in the House and 27 in the Senate. Then it would go to a statewide vote in November, where it would need a simple majority to pass.
Taking the Judicial Branch out of the equation is not the best answer for educating our children. If it should go that far, Kansans should not vote to give up some of the checks and balances provided by the separation of powers in the state’s judicial, legislative and executive branches.
Aside from bucking the courts, the Legislature has work to do. The Kansas House has passed a bill expanding state funding for education by about $525 million. The House bill spends twice as much over five years as the Senate bill, and Republicans warn that it will take a tax increase to fund the larger bill.
Gov. Jeff Colyer has praised the House bill.
Colyer isn’t necessarily against an amendment to the constitution, but he rightly stressed the most important thing now is to pass a school finance bill. Lawmakers should approve a plan aimed at satisfying the court before taking their annual 2½-week spring break which is scheduled to start Saturday.
If they don’t pass a school funding increase before leaving Topeka today, legislators will return with less than one week to meet the April 30 deadline. The Legislature needs to stop looking at gimmicks and figure out how to fund education adequately and fairly. Once that is done, it might even take a look at restoring funding that was cut from higher education.