First, it’s important to remember that the Special Session was only convened to address the equity portion of the lawsuit, yet to come is a decision on whether the funding levels of Kansas schools are constitutionally adequate. This means that more important decisions loom next year, when a more sustainable fix will be required. So what did we learn from this Special Session about the incumbents who will be seeking the opportunity to make these crucial decisions for our state, and what kind of representation will be required in order to get it right?
To me, an obvious takeaway from the Special Session is that, for one of the very few times, the ideas and leadership of moderate Republicans and Democrats were taken seriously. The interesting question is: why? From what I have learned, the pro-education legislators had done their homework and were better prepared to propose something that would work. Helping this might have been the desire of the current leadership to avoid more bad publicity and get their folks home to raise money and campaign. In this case, confirming “why” is not as important as what we, as voters, should do as a result of this. It’s critical that we take this as further incentive to review carefully our choices in the coming elections, and that we see there is a better way forward—one that’s possible through the election of more consensus-building problem solvers to the legislature.
It’s also important that the legislature avoided, in the end, doing anything really outlandish during the Special Session. The only non-essential issue raised was the leadership’s constitutional amendment introduced to take the Supreme Court, (for now) an equal branch of government, out of any power to impact adequate and appropriate funding of public schools. Fortunately, for the sake of Kansas and public education, it failed by one vote to receive the ⅔ vote necessary for passage, going down to defeat in the State Senate. Along with eight Democrats, six Republican Senators stood up to the pressure of the Senate leadership and voted for public education. Come August 2nd and November 8th, if you live in any of these fourteen Senate districts and you want quality public schools, good judgment, and courage, you have your candidate to support. If you live in one of the other twenty-six Senate districts (or a House district held by someone who supports the direction of the current administration), electing different representation, regardless of party affiliation, will be needed in order to defend Kansas schools from further attacks, unconstitutional actions, and short-sighted policies.
Truly restoring sanity will require many steps over the course of several election cycles and legislative sessions. But it's imperative that we make significant strides along that path during this election year and sustain that momentum in the years to come.