First adjournment of the 2005 legislative session will arrive April 1, with major education issues yet to be decided. The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, April 27for the “wrap-up” or veto session. During this period, the House and Senate will be considering additional budgetary matters and any bills vetoed by the Governor. The veto session is scheduled to last up to ten days; the House and Senate will then adjourn for the 2004 session.
SCHOOL FINANCE UPDATE
The House passed a bill to set standards for courts to use in deciding whether education funding meets the requirements of the Kansas Constitution. The measure would require a three-judge panel, instead of a single judge, to review school finance lawsuits in district court. The three-judge panel would be selected by the Chief Judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals. The panel then would decide venue and the case would be tried where the judges decide.
This measure is intended for school finance cases, but it changes the civil procedure for every case tried under Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, which includes the constitutional powers of school boards, the state Board of Education, and the Commissioner of Education. There is no other civil action in Kansas law which would use this method of civil procedure.
This bill had a hearing in the House Select Committee on School Finance. A conferee from Families United for Public Education opposed the bill and a conferee from the Attorney General’s office supported it. The bill cannot change the procedure on the present case filed by middle sized school districts, including Salina and Dodge City. But if it did, the three judges could have arguably been local district judges in Saline County, Ford County and other counties where school districts have many at-risk, bilingual and special education students and low property valuation per pupil.
An amendment was added in committee that re-defines a “suitable education.” The amendment ensures that the state only pays for “core classes” and then local school boards would have to pick up the costs of all “extra classes.” These “extras” could range from music and physical education classes, to advanced math and science courses. This is similar to a bill introduced and passed by the House last year.
According the Supreme Court decision, suitability has already been defined by the legislature. Changing the definition of suitability is a lowering of standards and is not what the parents of Kansas children want for the children’s education. It will not prepare students to compete in today’s knowledge-based economy. I voted against this bill.