Both the Kansas Senate President and the Kansas Speaker of the House spoke before a group for Small Business Day at the Capitol. In separate speeches, their message was consistent. They believe that K-12 spending is out of line when compared with the rest of the state’s budget.
“Ninety percent of our budget is in three areas,” said House Speaker Ron Ryckman. “About 6.5 billion, 90 percent of it, in social services, it’s our retirement system, or KPERS and education. Of that 90 percent, 50 percent comes through K-12. As you guys are very aware, we’re in the middle of a lawsuit. Again, every single year I’ve been here, we’re in the middle of a lawsuit for K-12. Every year we pour more money in. Every year the court says it’s not enough, or the plaintiff attorneys. This year, the plaintiff attorneys are asking for an additional $600 million on top of the $300 million we just put in. If we were to put another $300 million into K-12, that 50 percent grows to 60.”
Senate President Susan Wagle talked about how the Legislature is attempting to get the court new data to work from.
“They have been basing all their decisions on a study, an education finance study from 18 years ago called Augenblick & Myers, and we believe the study is outdated. We believe that no school district, no county, no state has ever adopted the Augenblick & Myers method of funding their schools, so we have hired some outside educational finance experts, who are going to review our formula and review what the court is basing their decisions on.”
Ryckman also talked about the possibility of a Constitutional Amendment to end school finance litigation.
“In 1966, the people of Kansas changed their Constitution,” said Ryckman. “They changed Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution. Basically, what happened there is they had a special session called for redistricting and somebody came up with an amendment on the floor and they passed it without a lot of discussion, a lot of talk, a lot of committee process. They changed it and said in Article 6 that you must provide suitable provisions for education. That word suitable now has been litigated ever since 1966, especially since 1992 on. Now, it’s a stack of case law this big, what that word means. We think it’s time that the people of Kansas help us decide what that means, so every year we’re not discussing just one half of our budget and not the rest of it.”
Ryckman noted that Article 6 does not specify K-12, so there is consideration to broadening the meaning to include other educational opportunities, if they can get a vote to the people.