The most recent Supreme Court ruling on school finance affirmed, once again, that the system to fund public education in Kansas remains unconstitutional. I have been intimately involved in advocating for equitable and adequate school funding for years, and I have read many of the previous Supreme Court decisions. This ruling stands apart from those prior rulings in that it expresses clear impatience with the fact that we continue to have a school funding system that is unconstitutional. The Court wrote:
“…[T]he education financing system has been judicially declared to be inadequately funded for at least 12 of the last 15 years…the demands of the Constitution cannot be further postponed…[W]e [the Supreme Court] will not allow ourselves to be placed in the position of complicit actors in the continuing deprivation of a constitutionally adequate and equitable education owed to hundreds of thousands of Kansas school children.”
Could they possibly have made it clearer that the clock is running down?
Since the ruling, I have been thinking about the hard work that remains in front of us as a state. Our legislators worked tireless this past Spring to reverse many of the tax cuts put in place in 2012. After the Supreme Court ruling, I heard reactions from a few legislators who stated that another tax increase would not even be considered. After the hard work the Legislature did last Spring, I guess I understand.
But still, the clock is ticking…
I wonder what would happen if we worked together to re-frame the conversation? Fully restoring the tax rates in place before 2012 is just that – restoring tax rates – and not raising taxes. Focusing on key services, such as education and health care, as investments to drive our economy might help us to look at our challenges through a new lens.
I remain hopeful that we will heed the words of our Justices, and not be complicit actors in the continuing deprivation of a constitutionally adequate and equitable education for our children.. It’s up to us to work together to end the cycle of litigation, and ensure schools have adequate and equitable resources to educate our future workforce. A clear deadline of April 30, 2017 has been laid out, and we will be challenged to meet it. Still, I remain confident that, working together, we will be successful. The education of our students is too important to the health and well-being of our state. It’s Up to Us!