Now that the Kansas Legislature has gaveled out and the school finance measure is on the Governor’s desk, what’s next?
“If he vetoes it, the Legislature will obviously have to come back to do something,” said Mark Tallman, Vice-President for Advocacy with the Kansas Association of School Boards. “In any event, it has to go to the Supreme Court, because they have ruled our funding system is unconstitutional and that shifts the burden back to the Legislature to prove it has corrected constitutional problems.”
There will be oral arguments where the state argues on behalf of the Legislature and the Gannon plaintiffs argue whether or not they believe adequacy has been achieved. Schools need to begin planning as if what has been passed is allowed to be enacted.
“We have to be aware that it is possible that the Supreme Court could come in and say no, you still haven’t got it right,” said Tallman. “That, I think could happen in two ways. Number one, they could say that sort of, the total amount or the direction of dollars is not correct, in which case, the Legislature would have to decide how to respond to that, or they could say that some of the new features in the law create a problem in the area of equity.”
The Court can decide to let the new law go forward and not dismiss the lawsuit, if they so choose.
“One option the court has is to retain jurisdiction over the case,” said Tallman. “Basically, saying to the Legislature, well, you’ve made a good start, but we’re going to keep an eye on things.”
If jurisdiction is retained, it would give schools faster options to get relief.
“Plaintiff groups who don’t feel that the system is working don’t have to go through a whole new lawsuit starting from the beginning,” said Tallman.
A key measurement that must be looked at that may cause the justices to retain the case is looking at the bottom twenty-five percent of students. The court may retain jurisdiction so that they can look closely at what is called the bottom quartile and see if they do better under the new formula or not.
The court’s decision process cannot fully begin until the Governor makes a decision on whether or not to allow the bill to become law without a signature, sign it or veto it.