Kan. senator proposes constitutional amendment to end school funding lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. - David Smith may have grounds to say, "I told you so."

When a three-judge panel ruled that education spending in Kansas was unconstitutionally low -- by about $400 million -- the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools spokesperson was cautiously optimistic that lawmakers would adhere to the ruling.

"The constitution is clear. The only thing they can do now if they don't want to do what's right for kids is change the constitution," he said. That was Jan. 11.

On Thursday, state senators got their first chance to listen to an amendment to change the Kansas Constitution.

The resolution language would add to the following: "The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power under article 2 of the constitution of the state of Kansas and as such shall be established solely by the Legislature."

Sen. Jeff King (R, Independence) proposed the amendment. He said it isn't in an attempt to spend less money on kids, but to let voters have the final say. 

"That should be a decision for the elected officials and the legislature to decide, not the courts," King said.

"It is frustrating, it's a little bit frightening," Smith said. "Because for me, this isn't simply about numbers, it's about kids."

In the largely urban Kansas City, Kan., school district where raising taxes on a poorer population isn't an option, their teachers haven't had raises in four years. There isn't money to give them.

The court's ruling, Smith said, only required lawmakers to provide the amount of funding studies by lawmakers themselves had already agreed was the minimum.

"Will the legislature do the right thing for children or will they try to change the meaning of what is right?" Smith asked.

If the amendment passes through the Legislature, it would go to voters on the August 2014 ballot. If voters approve, it would negate the court's ruling.

The state has already appealed the ruling to the Kansas Supreme Court.

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