History of proposed education amendments to the Kansas Constitution

The Kansas Legislature Research Department has released a memo describing previously proposed constitutional amendments to Article Six of the Kansas Constitution, which concerns education, since passage of the 1992 school finance law. 

The memo, requested by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, is available on the KASB website with this link. 

The 2018 Legislature is expected to consider proposals for amending the state constitution as it weighs responses to last month’s Gannon decision. The court held that the Legislature did not offer enough evidence to show it has provided constitutionally adequate funding in passing SB 19, and that several features of that bill created unconstitutional inequities. 

Here are links to KASB’s written summary and video explanation of the Court’s decision last month. Other materials about the Gannon decisions can be found on the KASB Key Resources page. 

The special legislative committee created to study a “comprehensive response” to the decision includes the chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, which would have jurisdiction over constitutional amendments. Here is link to the state webpage of the committee. 

The new memo describes 34 proposed constitutional amendments from the 1993 session through the 2017 session. None received the necessary two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate required to be advanced to a public vote. 

From 1993 through 2003, the proposed amendments focused not on finance but on the structure and powers of the State Board of Education. These included removing the “self-executing” powers of the board to take action without specific authority from the Legislature, to place appointment of the Commissioner of Education under Governor rather than the State Board, or to add more members to the 10-member board to avoid tie votes (which had become an issue in the late 1990’s.) 

Following the Montoy lawsuit and decisions by the Kansas Supreme Court in the mid-2000’s, the focus of amendments shifted to addressing the court’s role and remedies. These included proposals to give the Legislature sole authority to determine school finance, to prohibit the court from ordering funding amounts, and prohibiting action by the court to close the operation of public schools. 

Here is a link to the current language of Article Six. 

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