Just when we thought we were done (until the Supreme Court rules), we get the news of an error in SB 423, the school finance bill. And not just a little thing – a big thing. An $80 million thing.
Let’s first put to rest any conspiracy theories. Bills and amendments are drafted by the Office of the Revisor of Statutes which is staffed by attorneys with special expertise in drafting statutory language. They work very hard and do a terrific job but every once in a while there are errors. Some errors are simply typos; others are due to misinterpretations of what a legislator wanted to do. They rarely rise to the level of this error but it obviously can happen.
The Revisors at this time of the session are working under extreme stress. They are being assigned demands for multiple amendments and struggling to keep up with all of the changes being made to many bills as the Legislature works through piles of stacked up bills. They work through the night to get everything ready for the next morning. They don’t go home when the Legislature adjourns for the day but work late into the night and early hours of the morning so things are ready to go the next day. They are stressed and sleep deprived.
There is no conspiracy. There is a mistake and mistakes can be fixed.
There will be trailer legislation written to correct the error. The Legislature can return on April 26 and quickly pass such legislation if they cooperate with each other, respect the democratic process, and decline to seek political points or advantage at the expense of our schools.
We know that Senate Republican leadership was opposed to this bill because they don’t believe our schools need additional funding despite multiple studies showing the schools do. Those opposed to this bill because they did not want to fund schools believed just as much as anyone that the bill provided $500 million over five years. They also know that a majority of Senators voted to pass the bill with that understanding. We hope that leadership will not stand in the way of fixing this error and will honor the decision made at the end of the session.
We know that many members of the House had worked very hard to increase the funding in the bill. They were not successful. While we would love to have had support for the increases proposed, that is not what ultimately passed. We hope that those legislators will not stand in the way of fixing this error and will honor the decision made at the end of the session.
We want to reiterate that we are not convinced that SB 423 as it was understood to be on April 7 will satisfy the adequacy ruling in Gannon. It may, but it is just as likely that it won’t. But we believe in the system. We believe that what the Legislature understood they passed on that night needs to go before the Court. We believe that the Attorney General and the plaintiffs should prepare briefs based on that understanding and we call upon the Legislature to fix the bill on April 26 so that it matches the understanding of that night.
We don’t need finger-pointing. We don’t need to play some “blame game.” We don’t need to try to score political points. We need to respect what was intended on April 7 and move to the Courts. We call upon all members of the Kansas Legislature to do just that.