Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court handed down their decision on school finance, declaring the block grant approach put in place by Governor Brownback and his allies in the Legislature unconstitutional. This led to all sides putting the gloves on and signalling no backing down, including a rumor that the Legislature just might call the court’s bluff and leave town without doing the work required of them by our constitution. Keep in mind that current legislative leaders and the Governor were already at odds with the members of the Supreme Court and are now being ordered to do school finance right or they will shut down the school system, this is like high noon at the OK Corral.
To put this in a bigger picture, all of the above is happening in an election year where the entire Legislature is up for election and five of the seven Supreme Court Justices are up for retention vote in November. For the first time in our history, our judicial system—built on the concept of being one of three equal branches of the government—is facing potential for devastating results with huge impacts on the funding of public education. Key will be the public’s understanding of the importance of these events and their ability to accurately assess whether their legislators served their interest. Put another way, will they vote for legislative candidates who support the Kansas Constitution and the proper funding of public education?
There will be more to share on this and also the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court as the year goes on towards Election Day on November 8th. But, for now, it’s safe to say—at both the state and national level—the judiciary will play a bigger role in this year’s election season conversation than perhaps any point in our history.