Finally a decision on the Gannon school-funding case has been released. The Kansas Supreme Court made clear that total money spent is not the measure to be used to determine adequacy of public school finance. The case was sent back to the lower court that originally ruled that the state was not adequately funding Kansas public education. The legislature has until July 1 to comply with the statute to fully fund capital outlay as well as Local Option Budget equalization, totaling nearly $130 million. The court stated that there should be a minimal standard to determine education adequacy and that proficiency should be the basis for that standard. Additionally, the court ruled that by not funding capital outlay state aid payments (meant to equalize funding for districts across the state) the state was acting unconstitutionally. As of July 1 the original three-judge district court panel will decide if the legislature has acted in a way that the funding disparities are rectified. In the weeks ahead both the Senate and the House will work toward solutions. At this point no one can say just what those solutions will be.
What did not happen in this decision? The court did not specify the exact path to achieve the goal of equitable funding. Also, no demand was made to require the state to pay the over $400 million of base state aid per pupil that is currently not being funded as required by our current formula. That means there will be no increase in funding to Shawnee Mission schools as many had hoped.
As the legislature moves forward to satisfy the court, I will encourage my legislative colleagues to carefully evaluate the notion of proficiency. The court specified using standards from a previous case entitled “Rose.” My concern is that we recognize and remember the failure of No Child Left Behind and its dependence on testing; we absolutely do not want to emulate that model as we establish the definition of proficiency.
In the weeks ahead, we will continue to work through many other issues besides the Gannon ruling. Here are some issues that will be discussed in my own committees.
- Insurance: We will spend two days hearing testimony regarding autism coverage. There is significant interest in this legislation, along with definite controversy about the specifics of such law.
- Health and Human Services: We will hear an update on the KU Stem Cell Research Center that was funded by the legislature last year. We also will hear testimony on a bill that would increase the penalties for assault and battery if committed against a health-care worker, a firefighter, a dog-catcher, or a referee. I personally have been doing extensive research on this bill because of concerns for patients who may be combative due to their underlying medical condition (e.g. dementia, low blood sugar, mental illness) along with individual autonomy rights. In my mind, bills need to be thoroughly vetted before being voted into law and I work hard to do just that.
It is a privilege to serve In the House and I am appreciative of the trust you have put in me to do so. Feel free to contact me about issues that are of concern.