Topeka Facing a possible court-ordered increase in public school funding, Gov. Sam Brownback has called for opening up the dialogue between legislators and school leaders.
But a meeting Brownback has set up for next week at Cedar Crest, the governor’s home, features only Republican elected officials and school district representatives who are not among the plaintiffs in the school finance lawsuit before the Kansas Supreme Court, according to an invitation obtained Monday by the Lawrence Journal-World.
Speaking against school finance litigation, Brownback said, “This a dumb way of handling this. This is the wrong way to handle it.”
A lower court panel has ruled that the state has unconstitutionally cut public school funding while passing mammoth tax cuts and it has ordered an increase of upwards of $500 million per year.
The state has appealed, and the Kansas Supreme Court is expected to rule in the next couple of months.
Brownback said school superintendents and legislative leaders needed to meet to discuss school funding.
“If you’re not talking, you’re not going to come up with any resolution. If you’re talking, you got a chance of being able to come up with something,” he said.
On Nov. 25, Brownback will meet with Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita; House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell; House Education Chairwoman Kasha Kelly and Senate Education Chairman Steve Abrams, both of whom are Republicans from Arkansas City; State Board of Education member Ken Willard, R-Hutchinson; the superintendents of the Shawnee Mission, McPherson, Fairfield and Seaman school districts; and Kansas Association of School Boards President Frank Henderson.
The invitation from the governor’s office states: “I know the governor looks forward to a discussion and to open a line of communication between legislative leaders and the education community heading into next session.”
School finance is expected to dominate the 2014 legislative session, which starts in January.
Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll said the district and local legislators already had open lines of communication.
“We have a great relationship with our local delegation and feel that they are very responsive to our needs,” Doll said.
On the issue of school funding litigation, Brownback re-emphasized his opposition to a court-ordered resolution.
As a law student at Kansas University more than 30 years ago, he said he listened to a lecture from former State District Judge Terry Bullock, who was a key figure in earlier Kansas school finance lawsuits.
“I heard a lecture from Judge Bullock then talking about the litigation and how he was going to handle it and push the Legislature. I was saying, ‘Why are you the guy doing this? This sounds like something, you know, a governor, or legislative leadership ought to be (handling). Why is this, a judge, that’s sitting here on top of this?”