Good Luck

May 28th, 2022
L&T Opinions Page


Topeka Capital-Journal
April 14

There will be an ornery inclination among some lawmakers to block a revision that is needed in the K-12 school finance plan recently approved by the Legislature.
The required change stems from an error in the funding process that was worded into the bill. Without a correction, the plan falls about $80 million short of the $150 million targeted for the first year of the new arrangement. The error was discovered by the Kansas State Department of Education. When lawmakers return April 26 from break, they must approve a formality changing the bill.
Considering the rancor that erupted over passage of the measure, the chance exists for the formality to obstruct the correction.
In addition to providing public schools with much-needed funding, the bill was designed to satisfy an order from the Kansas Supreme Court demanding the constitutional requirements for school appropriations be met. The deadline to file motions to defend the funding plan is April 30, which prompted both Gov. Jeff Colyer and Attorney General Derek Schmidt to urge the Legislature to pass legislation before the matter was settled last weekend.
Now, Colyer has asked legislators to play nice. “In many ways,? the governor said, “this was a technical correction, but we want everybody to work together.?
Everyone knows how that usually goes with politicians. The governor, however, is right. The intent of the legislation was to approve a plan suitable to the court. A ploy by Republican leaders in the Senate to approve a constitutional amendment backfired. Disagreements were aired, but a compromise was eventually reached.
The mistake in the bill was not found until later. While the discovery can be cited as a reason to work more efficiently on legislation, it is not a reason to sabotage passage of the legislation.
“It’s not just what happened on one particular day,? Colyer said. “Look at it on the long term. Lots of good folks, lots of robust discussion through there, and we had a process, and it worked.?
That culmination of the process drew a mixed response, naturally, from lawmakers and even prompted Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican, to advocate for prayer in the state’s public schools after concluding “taxpayers don’t have enough money to fix it.?
Some Republicans offered dire predictions for other state programs while contending the Kansas Supreme Court could rule against the legislation and deem the $525 million boost over five years to be inadequate. If that happens, however, the justices may in effect be asking for a change to the state constitution, which now states “the Legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.? That particular clause happens to be left to the interpretation of the court.
Rep. Larry Hibbard, R-Toronto, essentially issued a challenge, which at this point makes some sense if the court decides lawmakers did not incorporate enough assistance for public schools into the measure that passed.
“No. 1, they want out of this one as bad as we do,? Hibbard reasoned, referencing the Supreme Court justices. “If they don’t accept it, when we come back in July, bring that constitutional amendment with you, and we’ll have a good discussion.?
Hopefully the issue of K-12 school finance does not come to that. Hopefully lawmakers realize a good-faith attempt was made to satisfy the court. Hopefully lawmakers comply with making the simple fix needed to wording within the bill.
Allow Schmidt enough opportunity to prepare briefs and defend the plan before the Kansas Supreme Court. If the justices do not rule favorably on the legislation, the Legislature will have another opportunity to debate the issue. If it comes to that, then by all means, renew consideration for a constitutional amendment, along with other proposals.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, Starley Craig, Liberal


USD No. 480 plans on spending more than $300,000 [ ... ]


GUEST COLUMN, Larry Phillips, Kismet


It was so heartwarming to see my critics are still living [ ... ]