Topics we will be following this week include:
Reaction will continue to the school finance lawsuit ruling Friday by a three judge panel that essentially orders the Legislature to fund the formula as it passed in 2006 after the Montoy school finance lawsuit. We estimate that would require adding over $550 million next year, with $90 million going to reduce local property taxes pushed up by under-funding local option budget state aid. That is money the Legislature doesn’t have available to spend right now, as the state sales tax rate is scheduled to drop by 0.6 percent and income tax rates decline by 25%. The State, which lost to decision to a group of school district and student plaintiffs, will appeal.
Opposition to the decision is expected to fuel efforts to change the way judges are appointed to the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. Currently, the Governor makes appointments from nominations by a committee dominated by lawyers, called “merit selection.” Legislators will push for either direct appointment by the Governor with Senate confirmation, or election by the people. Hearings could begin this week. Changing selection of the Supreme Court would take a constitutional amendment, requiring approval by two-thirds of the House and Senate, and a majority of voters in a general election. That election could be as early as school board and other local elections this April.
By the way, another push is expected to change the date of those local elections away from April of odd-numbered years. One option is to add those elections to the November general election ballot in even-numbered years. Another proposal is to hold them in November of ODD-numbered years. KASB’s delegate assembly voted in December to oppose changing the judicial selection process or the date of school board elections. This weekend, the KASB Board of Directors agreed to support a proposal that would keep the merit selection process in place, but give the Governor and Legislative leadership appointments to a majority of seats on the selection committee.
The Governor’s State of the State Address will be delivered Tuesday night, and budget details Wednesday morning. KASB will review the speech and budget in a special webinar Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.
Four new members of the State Board of Education will take office this week, when the board organizes for a new year.
KASB advocacy staff will spend the much of this week meeting with new Legislative leaders and getting to know an unusually large number of first time Legislators in the House, plus a near-total turnover of committee chairs in the Senate. The Senate Education, House Education and House Education Budget Committee all have new chairs and vice chairs.