Parent-led education groups urge Legislature to provide necessary K-12 funding, leave the constitution alone

Numerous parent-led education groups Tuesday urged the Legislature to provide the necessary K-12 funding to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court order to cover inflation and disregard a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove the judiciary from deciding lawsuits challenging school funding adequacy.

“It is essential we continue the work we have begun,” said Gail Jamison, president of Goddard Advocates for Public Education and director of Speak Up for Kansas Kids Network.

Jamison was joined by Judith Deedy, executive director of Game On for Kansas Schools, and Devin Wilson, legislative chair for the Kansas Parent Teacher Association, at a news conference at the Statehouse. Their statement was supported by more than a dozen other groups and individuals from across Kansas. A video of the news conference is on KASB’s Facebook page.

The school advocates staked out their positions with the 2019 legislative session set to start Monday as Gov.-elect Laura Kelly, a Democrat, will take office facing a Legislature dominated by conservative Republican leaders.

School finance is expected to grab center stage. The state Supreme Court has said the current funding formula is constitutional if an inflation factor is added. The could require an additional $364 million phased in over four years.

Some conservative Republicans have balked at the price tag and voiced support of a constitutional amendment that seeks to make the Legislature the final authority on adequate funding. Such a proposal would require two-thirds support in the House and Senate before being placed on the ballot for voters. Some have also said that perhaps the Legislature should make further changes to the funding formula.

On Tuesday, the education advocates said changes to the constitution and formula should be avoided and that providing the funds would end the long running Gannon lawsuit.

Deedy stated, “Now is the time to move forward, not backward.” School funding was cut during the Great Recession and then was never properly returned when the recession ended because of the tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, she said. “We stand on the verge of escaping an era when our children were collateral damage — first of a recession and then of a failed tax cut experiment,” Deedy said.

Wilson urged the Legislature to embrace funding early in the session so that legislators could focus on other issues while giving schools “financial certainty and opportunity for planning before next year’s budgets are due.”

Other groups and individuals supporting the effort included Educate Andover, Education First Shawnee Mission, Elevate 262 (Valley Center), Kansas Families for Education, Mainstream Coalition, Maize Action Council for Students, Olathe Public Education Network, Save our Schools Cowley County, Stand Up Blue Valley, Women for Kansas, and individuals from Bucklin and Lawrence.

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