Look at the financial challenge for a moment. It was bleak going in, and then an additional shortfall of approximately $76 million in May revenue was announced. Add to that the fact that the Supreme Court decision on school finance only addressed the equity side of the suit, which calls for roughly $40 million. This means a much bigger number could come later when the adequacy issue is resolved. This would mean, even after responsible action is required to address the fairness side by leveling the playing field consistent with the constitution, public schools will still be underfunded and require corrective action.
Several key legislators openly expressed total disrespect for the Justices of the Supreme Court and a long-standing interpretation of the state’s responsibility to fund public education. They charged the Justices with “playing politics”—an accusation that frankly seems a little ridiculous after several attempts on their part to inject politics into the, for now, separate and independent third branch of government. For me, all this is a far cry from the decades of responsible legislators from both political parties who worked out their disagreements and, in the end, did their job by appropriately funding public education and supporting the Kansas Constitution. What a difference we have today.
For now, the legislature has adjourned, but they will be back in special session soon at the calling of the Governor. Timing will be tight, for the solution must come in time for the court to act and hopefully clear the way for our schools to open come fall. But even with this done, we’ll likely still have many school districts implementing unprecedented measures to save money, at the expense of quality education for the students. All of this plays out as the August 2nd primary looms, with many key Republican races in both Houses that will have much to say about our state’s progress in righting the ship. For the many who are hoping to see a change of course, it will be the first opportunity to take strides along the road to recovery.