A constitutional amendment that would prevent the Kansas Supreme Court from closing schools was part of the discussion during the start of Thursday’s special session in Topeka.
The House Judiciary committee introduced two bills: the proposed constitutional amendment that also would cap education funding at 45 percent of the total state budget, and a bill that would create a superior court that would limit the power of the Supreme Court.
The constitutional amendment, introduced by Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican, would also leave all equalization matters up to the state board of education, instead of charging lawmakers with the task of funding distribution.
Rubin, who had said the court overstepped in its May ruling, wants to remove the word “suitable” from Article 6, Section 6 of the Kansas Constitution, where it says, “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”
“Money spent endlessly litigating the equity or the adequacy doesn’t get to the classroom,” Rubin said.
The Legislature would still have to find a solution to the current funding formula issue, even if they pass a constitutional amendment. The bill would then have to be put on a state ballot, most likely during this year’s general election.
The committee also discussed the constitutionality of a potential hold harmless clause. Hold harmless is the legislative term for letting property-wealthy districts keep funds that they would lose if lawmakers revert back to an old finance formula.
Rep. Blaine Finch, an Ottawa Republican, said he does believe that Legislature can craft a funding remedy with a hold harmless clause, but suggested including it in a separate bill, so if the Supreme Court doesn’t rule it constitutional, schools can still open on time.
Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, suggested excluding a hold harmless provision to please the court, but recommending that districts that lose money, like some Johnson County districts, can appeal to the state board of education and recoup their losses through the state’s education extraordinary needs fund.
“We don’t want to leave them high and dry,” Ward said.