Circumventing the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling this fall on school funding is going too far, and Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, should keep it at the legislative discussion level.
Unhappy with the Court’s ruling that the Legislature has inadequately funded public education, Pyle has proposed changing Kansas law so that the judiciary would not have the power to close Kansas schools next summer.
That’s if the Legislature hasn’t come up with a funding plan that suits the Court. Lawyers for the plaintiff school districts have said $600 million more is needed to adequately fund schools.
A $600 million payment, mind you, that the state doesn’t have without drastic solutions. Kansas is already expected to be $156 million in the hole by 2020 without changes – another tax increase or major slashes to the budget.
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Pyle’s sentiment is common among the conservative Republican wing of the Legislature: The Court isn’t being fair and reasonable in the Gannon case, so it’s time to get it out of the equation.
“So it’s high time we stood up to them and said, ‘Go pound sand,’ ” said Rep. John Whitmer, R-Wichita.
Violence against quartz granules aside, this isn’t the right way to challenge the Court’s authority, and certainly not at the right time.
The state Supreme Court is doing its job here. It determined in October, without attaching a price tag, that the state continues to inadequately and unfairly fund education throughout Kansas public school systems. The additional funding likely to be necessary will put a hurt on state finances, but that’s not the Supreme Court’s fault.
Five justices were on the ballot in 2016 and all were retained. 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.
So respect that. Justices on the state Supreme Court are appointed by the governor, then retained or rejected by voters every six years. 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.
An attempt at a constitutional amendment is a long shot. Two-thirds of both chambers would have to vote for it, and that’s not a good bet given that conservative Republicans seem like the only proponents of the change. If two-thirds of both chambers agree, then it would need a majority vote in a special election – all before the April 30 deadline given the Legislature by the Supreme Court’s latest ruling.
It shouldn’t come to that. Legislators should focus efforts on the beginning of the 2018 session and solving the state’s many problems without changing the constitution.