Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Crisis in Kansas?

The Kansas Supreme Court will decide Friday whether or not to withhold funds from schools because the Legislature did not meet the court's order to increase funding by $800 million. My guess is they will not do so. If they did, Kansas schools would not open in the fall and, more importantly -- yes, more importantly -- it would probably precipitate a constitutional crisis of sorts as the executive, judicial, and legislative branches scramble for authority.

From the Lawrence Journal:

TOPEKA — The State Board of Education agreed today to help the state’s top law enforcement official try to outmaneuver the Kansas Supreme Court so it wouldn’t be able to freeze funding to public schools.

The Supreme Court has announced it will consider withholding money from public schools until legislators comply with its order to provide an additional $143 million in education funding. Such a decision by the court could keep schools from opening later this summer.

Legislators missed the court’s July 1 deadline to boost school funding but plan to resume a special session Wednesday.

The Board of Education normally certifies the amount schools districts receive each month. Attorney General Phill Kline’s plan calls for the board to certify all money districts would receive for the entire academic year before the court can rule. Kline believes the court can’t prevent the state treasurer from distributing money once the amount due to school districts has been certified.

The board’s vote was 6-4, with Kline’s fellow conservative Republicans approving of the plan.

“We believe it is important to try to do something to keep schools open,” said board chairman Steve Abrams of Arkansas City.

The board’s Democrats and moderate Republicans said they don’t want schools to close but questioned whether what Kline is suggesting is legal.

Can you spell constitutional crisis, boys and girls?

For further background, check this from the Wichita Eagle (and this, too):

A brief look at special session, school finance debate

Associated Press

LAWMAKERS RETURN: A special legislative session on education funding was scheduled to resume Wednesday, its 12th working day.

THE MANDATE: The Kansas Supreme Court ordered legislators on June 3 to provide an additional $143 million to public schools, setting a July 1 deadline, which legislators missed.

THE THREAT: The court has scheduled a hearing for 9 a.m. Friday on whether it should withhold money from public schools, possibly keeping them closed after the start of the new school year in August.

AN END RUN: Attorney General Phill Kline argued Tuesday that the court can't cut off the flow of money to schools if the amounts of state aid due each district each money already are certified. That requires action by the State Board of Education and the state budget director.

MIXED SUCCESS: The state board voted 6-4 to certify aid figures for districts from August though January. However, Budget Director Duane Goossen, who works for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, said he would follow normal procedures.

A COMPROMISE: House and Senate negotiators were working on a $148.5 million school finance package.

AN AMENDMENT: House Republican leaders continued to insist that a proposal to change the Kansas Constitution to limit judicial power must pass for a school finance bill to win approval.


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