TOPEKA, Kansas – A new plan to rework school finance is a go. The Senate passed Republican Governor Sam Brownback’s $4 billion plan to change school funding.
But the courts may block the move. A three judge panel issued a statement Friday that indicates a court block may be in the works, before it’s even signed into law.
“The courts are going to step in and address this issue,” says Democrat Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita. “And I, from what I’m hearing, they are going to do it aggressively.”
That court statement is from a panel of three judges appointed to look into school finance, and lawsuits filed in previous years. There is a pending case on school funding, that only applies to the current school finance formula.
But the Senate moved forward on Monday, voting 25-14, to pass a new formula for funding schools, called a block “grant” of money. Schools have maintained the block of money will cost them millions across the state.
“The court has sent a very strong message they are concerned about what’s happening,” says Democrat House member Jim Ward of Wichita. “This may create a constitutional crisis if the court makes an order saying you can not fund schools under an unconstitutional formula and the Governor tries to fund them anyway.”
Ward is one of the house member that voted against the measure to change school funding.
Senate members voting in favor maintain the new formula will not only hold the line on school funding, it will allow the state to try to balance the budget.
Kansas is a budget hole of roughly $600 million.
“This will give us a way to know exactly what we will be spending on schools for the next two years,” says Republican Senator Michael O’Donnell of Wichita. “And this is about half the budget.”
The governor is expected to sign the bill into law later in the week. The courts have not given a time when action could come from the judicial branch on school funding.