Kansas lawmakers look to change constitution to end school litigation

Capitol Bureau

Kansas lawmakers have one month left until they need to present a school funding plan to the state Supreme Court.

In October, the high court ruled the state wasn’t properly funding schools and gave lawmakers an April 30 deadline to develop a solution. 

Now some lawmakers are looking at changing the state’s constitution to end the cycle of litigation. 

News spread quickly on the third floor rotunda Thursday after a bill creating a constitutional amendment was introduced in the House Tax Committee.

The Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding is behind the bill. The coalition is a lobbying group created in response to a new school finance study which showed it could cost up to $2 billion to properly pay for schools. 

“It would then allow the legislature to determine the total funding level that would go toward K-12 education to provide a suitable education,” said Donley. 

Right now the constitution says Kansas must make “suitable” provisions to finance education. The amendment would define what “suitable” means. 

Mark Tallman with the Kansas Association of School Boards was reading the bill in the rotunda moments after it was introduced. 

“It appears to me that this is trying to say the court can’t tell the legislature that they are not spending enough money,” said Tallman. 

Passing a constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds vote from the House and Senate, and would also require a statewide vote. 

“The people in my district, and I believe across the state, support our schools and think we should fund them adequately and most people I know don’t believe we’ve done that,” said State Rep. Vic Miller, D-Topeka. 

When asked earlier in the week, Governor Colyer said a constitutional amendment was an option worth looking at.   

“I am the 10th Governor to be saddled with this. We need to stop the cycle of litigation,” he said. 

This week, House Republicans introduced their $500 million school funding plan. Representative Steven Johnson said the amendment was part of the school funding discussion. 

“It was part of the overall discussion that was happening in the last day of trying to put an education plan together, with the goal of the funding to keep schools open,” said Johnson, R-Assaria. 

If the legislature moves forward with the constitutional amendment this session, it would not impact the current school funding court case. 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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