Republicans Will Likely Keep Fighting Kansas Supreme Court Over Public School Funding

On Thursday, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the budget plan the Republican government had for public schools was unconstitutional and biased against poorer districts.

As the video shows, the Kansas Supreme Court ruling was already made in February, and when the Republican legislature was ordered to work on a bill that would fund the schools, the lawmakers only made adjustments in the wording for the new school finance law, defying the Supreme Court’s decision.

ABC News’ report on this issue says, “It was the third school finance law approved in as many years as Republican lawmakers hoped to keep the court from following through on a threat it made in a February ruling to shut schools down.”

This clearly shows that the Republican-led Kansas government is resilient and determined to fight the state’s Supreme Court until they get a ruling in their favor.

Mark Tallman Kansas Education Lobbyist
The Wichita Public Schools’ channel on YouTube shows a 54-minute video of Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards speaking with the legislature about Kansas education funding and achievement more thoroughly

A block grant funding bill is to blame for the $53 million dollar shortfall for the poorer school districts, because rather than those schools receiving funding from their increased tax effort per year, it would go to the state.

According to Courthouse News, the school funding plan was decided by the state’s 2014 legislature when they amended the funding bill.

“The majority of funding still came from each district’s required 20-mill tax levy. But instead of allowing each district to keep the proceeds from its local mill levy and remit any amount above its state financial aid entitlement to the state, the 2014 legislature required all of the proceeds to be remitted to the state.”

But 2015 legislation went even further and reduced “the school districts’ capital outlay state aid and supplemental general state aid entitlements, resulting in ‘immediate losses to the districts receiving those types of aid.'”

One can go back as far as 2006 when the Lawrence Journal-World wrote about the response from the Kansas Republican legislature who did not like the Kansas Supreme Court ruling over two issues; one over the death penalty and the other to demand that they spend money on public education.

The article focuses on the “payback” Republicans were planning, to “rein in” a “runaway judiciary” by changing the way the state’s judiciary committee selects Kansas Supreme Court justices.

An article by the New York Times focuses on the history of this battle but also shows that the Republican-led government will likely not accept the ruling as final, with Republican House Speaker Ray Merrick saying after the ruling that the court is taking children “hostage.”

“The court has yet again demonstrated it is the most political body in the state of Kansas. Dumping the ruling at 5 p.m. The day before a long weekend and holding children hostage… This despite the fact that the Legislature acted in good faith to equalize the record amounts of money going to the schools.”

The article continues to describe the reality Republicans face where they will probably need to spend millions more on public schools and Governor Brownback will likely be making cuts to higher education and medicaid.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Governor Brownback has been given the freedom to make the cuts himself with no coercing from lawmakers as to where he should do so.

Ray Merrick and Ostmeyer. May 2016
But they’ve also promised and are apparently prevented — through a provision — from touching education funding, which Merrick himself has said they would not touch.

It also explains that many feel this was started when Governor Brownback made deep tax cuts in 2012 and 2013.

The Governor also had a response for the Kansas Supreme Court ruling.

“It is unfortunate that the Kansas Supreme Court has put at risk the education of Kansas students by threatening to close schools on June 30. The court is engaging in political brinkmanship with this ruling, and the cost will be borne by our children we will carefully consider the implications of the court’s ruling and it’s disregard for the proper role of the Kansas Legislature.”

As the deadline of June 30 placed on the state by the court looms, there appears to be plenty of reasons for Republicans on a more ideologically united front, to defy the Kansas Supreme Court and extend the fight for even longer.

*Corrections have been made in grammar and statements have been clarified. [11:23 PM | 05-28-2016]

[Image by Mike Linksvayer via Flickr/Public Domain 1.0]