WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Thursday brought Kansas school children and their parents one day closer to the prospect of schools in the state closing down on July 1st.
Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled lawmakers should come up with a better plan to fund public schools by June 30th. Otherwise, schools in the state must close until the legislature resolves the funding issue.
Legislators wrapped up the 2016 legislative session Wednesday without taking any action to solve the school funding problem.
KSN spent Thursday talking to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. What we learned is that some GOP legislators say they’re not worried about the possibility of the schools closing at the end of the month.
KSN first tried to contact Republican Senator Ty Masterson from Andover, the chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee. Masterson, however, was unavailable for comment.
However, we were able to talk with GOP State Representative Steve Huebert from Valley Center. He said the court’s waiting until the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend to announce its decision is troubling.
“If the courts truly wanted us to respond on our last day of the session, they shouldn’t have waited until Friday at five before a three-day weekend, which practically gave us one day to respond,” said Huebert.
It wasn’t reasonable for the legislature to be expected to react so quickly to the court’s decision, Huebert said, adding the legislature’s first good-faith effort was to put more money into education than ever before.
“People are saying the legislature is going to defy the courts,” said Huebert. “The reality is, the Supreme Court has already defied the legislative process.”
But. lawmakers on the other side of the aisle are concerned that calling the high court’s bluff could end up backfiring.
“It is ridiculous to blame the Supreme Court when you have failed to do your job,” said Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita. He believes the process to find a solution and meet the court’s requirements could have started Wednesday.
Ward says he’s confident that, if the legislature doesn’t meet those requirements, the Kansas Supreme Court will move forward.
“I believe the court will enforce its order,” said Ward. “The court has found the legislature and the Governor has failed to suitably fund schools as required by the constitution.”
As for what’s next, Huebert says lawmakers are waiting for the Legislative Research Department’s staff to complete their review of the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision.
Meanwhile, Ward says a special session will need to be called in order to come to a decision.