Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Judiciary, Budget Committees to Take Lead in K-12 Special Session

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Judiciary, Budget Committees to Take Lead in K-12 Special Session

Article excerpt

A joint meeting of House and Senate judiciary committees Thursday ahead of the Legislature's special session on education finance will allow lawmakers and the public to dive into strategies to fix a funding flaw and block a court-ordered closure of schools.

Sen. Jeff King, an Independence Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the plan called for no more than two days of testimony and debate about immediate solutions to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling, pointing to a constitutional defect of Kansas' public school finance law.

The goal is to forward recommendations to the Legislature's budget committees, he said.

"To me," King said, "the biggest part of this is we have to address the financial concerns the court had for next year."

King said the joint committee would discuss placing a constitutional amendment on the November ballot striking the high court's authority to mandate closure of the K-12 school system. The amendment would require two-thirds majorities in the House and Senate before put on ballots.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said movement to allocate more aid to schools in the upcoming year could be hampered by disagreement about source of that cash.

"That's where most of the debate will be in the Senate," he said.

Hensley said legislators might attempt to soften opposition to a new financing bill by seeking expansion of state-financed scholarships, or vouchers, for students attending private schools.

Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee will wait until the June 23 launch of the special session to work on legislation addressing the Supreme Court's order. The justices set a June 30 deadline to correct funding inequities, and noted possible closure of the education system.

More than one solution will be put before House budget committee members, said Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., the Republican chairman of the panel from Olathe. …

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