With less than a week to go before their self-imposed deadline, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling on Gannon VI on Monday, June 25th, at 3:00 p.m. Importantly, schools will remain open and that is good for our students and families. The court also recognized the work we did this year and the ruling provides clear direction on what it will take to make our funding formula constitutional and bring lawsuits to an end. Our schools remain a top priority for me, as I know they are for all Kansans. Arguments will be made by both sides – some will say this is too much while others will say this is not enough. Our job is to find the right balance, without underfunding other services and without over burdening our citizens.
In short, the decision stated that the equity components of the 2018 bill are fine, but the funding level needs more work to comply with the legislature’s own metrics for measuring educational standards. The court said this year’s funding level is OK for schools to open on July 1st but they will retain jurisdiction of the case and expect additional funding to be passed and updates provided to the court by April 15, 2019.
Specific funding concerns include:
The Kansas Legislature gaveled out last Friday evening, sine die (to adjourn for an indefinite period), and our work for the time being is complete. Being part of the Freshman Class of 2017 has been an incredible honor, together we have worked tirelessly over the past two years with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make Kansas a better place for us all. In this last legislative summary, I’d like to offer some details about two controversial bills and end with a summary of our accomplishments.
If you followed the final days of our legislative session before our first adjournment, you witnessed politics at its “finest” and I say that with the utmost sarcasm. In a non-budget year, Kansas statute dictates that the legislature completes its work in 90 calendar days. Saturday, April 7th was our 90th day and our work was far from done. In a normal political environment, the process would have included a joint resolution between the House and Senate to extend our session to allow time to reconcile competing bills and work through a normal veto session. But, this is not a normal political environment. Consequently, our work on April 7th was fraught with last minute wrangling, political maneuvering and what I like to call “post-card politics,” as we raced the clock. Without a joint resolution by midnight on April 7th, all bills that had been worked and not signed by the Governor would go up in a flash of smoke and we would have to start all over again. All of this played out while over 650 teachers lined the halls of the 3rd floor of the capitol, listening to the Senate debate their future.
As we begin the last scheduled week before our April adjournment, the shenanigans are in full bloom even if the tulips are not. We know we have only two big issues to resolve (school funding and the budget) and frustration levels are already high. On Monday, we debated HB 2445, a bill that attempts to address the school funding issue and satisfy the courts.
Last Friday afternoon, the joint K-12 Education Budget and Senate Select Committees received a briefing from its attorneys, Jeff King for the Senate and Curt Tideman for the House, on the results of the commissioned report from Texas A&M University concerning the cost of a suitable education in Kansas. This independent study reviewed the history of litigation against the state, as well as reviewed previous studies of K-12 education funding. Many had speculated that the report would endorse the philosophy that there was no link between student performance and funds allocated to education. Instead, the report argued that the state might need tospend up to $2 billion over the next five years for education if we truly want to increase performance outcomes for all students across the state. You can read the report in its entirety here.
We arrived back in Topeka yesterday (Wednesday) after a five day “break” that included a Town Hall meeting, a house party to give a legislative briefing, and several meetings with constituents. I also squeezed in a quick visit to see my parents and sisters in Springfield, Missouri. Twenty-four hours is not nearly enough time to really enjoy a nice happy hour and a rousing game of scrabble. But, we managed to do both and have a nice dinner together and I am grateful for that. By Tuesday, I was back in Overland Park attending the Overland Park Chamber’s “State of the City” luncheon with Mayor Carl Gerlach and several hundred other community members who are energized by all that’s going on in one of the “best” cities in the country!
Last week the pace at the Capitol picked up a lot! This is a wonderful time of year to visit the Capitol because we are busy in committees and on the floor. So, you can see us in action, but we aren’t to the point where we are locked on the floor all day. There is plenty of time to meet with you on bills and discuss any activities going on at home. On Tuesday, I was excited to have Debbie and Mark Kitchin, and Sandra and Jack Reddin spend the day with me to do just that! Mark and Jack (Prairie Star Middle School) served as my pages for the day while Debbie and Sandra shadowed me in my committee meetings and on the floor. I think everyone learned a lot and I certainly enjoyed having them all with me for the day.
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities during the legislative session.