Topeka — About 100 people Saturday rallied in protest of the Kansas Supreme Court decision that ordered lawmakers to come up with more money for schools.
"The Kansas Supreme Court has misused its power," state Rep. Frank Miller, R-Independence, said. "I shall not acquiesce to the Kansas Supreme Court," he said.
Miller and other speakers said they were duty-bound to defy or rein in the court, describing their stand as similar to the Founding Fathers' fight for independence from England.
Miller said decisions by the Kansas Supreme Court and courts in other states were "small steps in the direction of national suicide."
Richard Hayse, president of the Kansas Bar Assn., said the protesters were off-base.
"This case is like any other. When one party's rights have been violated, the courts are here to describe a remedy," Hayse said. He said legislators who defied the court were threatening the government's system of checks and balances.
The dispute is over the Kansas Supreme Court's position that the Legislature has failed to provide "suitable" funding for schools, as required by the Kansas Constitution.
Lawmakers return to special session Wednesday to tackle the issue.
In January, the court found the $2.8 billion school finance system unconstitutional, saying that it provided inadequate funds for Kansas' 450,000 students and that the distribution of those funds shortchanged poorer school districts. At that time, the court had told the Legislature to increase school funding based on the actual cost of education and to distribute those funds more fairly.
The Republican-dominated Legislature increased school funding $142 million and allowed local school districts to increase property taxes to supplement schools.
On June 3, the court said the proposal fell short, ordered the Legislature to increase school funding by another $143 million by July 1, and disallowed the option to increase local property taxes, saying that would further widen the gap between rich and poor districts.
Since then, many conservative Republicans have accused the court of overstepping its authority by ordering a specific school funding increase.
"The Kansas Supreme Court has no control over the purse," said Nancy Hanahan, of Overland Park, who carried a sign that read "Just say no. No judicial activism."
"What part of separation of powers do they not understand?" Hanahan said.
Ray Keating, of Overland Park, attended the rally, saying he was concerned about courts becoming activists. "They are allowed to rule on laws but not appropriate monies," he said.
Keating held a sign that read "Stop the Activist Sebelius Court." Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, has appointed one member of the six current justices on the court.
The sponsor of the rally, the conservative Kansas Republican Assembly, had urged protesters to carry signs linking the court to Sebelius.
Tamara Cooper, executive director of the KRA, said she was happy with the turnout. "This is like coming up to the plate. We're ready to swing the bat and had the first ball pitched," she said.
She said legislators should just ignore the court order.
The rally attracted five Republican House members; Mary Pilcher Cook of Shawnee, Lance Kinzer of Olathe, Richard Carlson of St. Marys, John Faber of Brewster and Miller.
The event started outside, but then ralliers moved inside to the second floor of the Capitol.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)