Courts, Judicial Selection and Constitutional Amendments

Role of the Courts, Judicial Selection and Constitutional Amendments

The Kansas Senate is working to push 2 constitutional amendments this session. They both arise out of recent and not-so-recent successful school funding litigation. The Kansas Constitution mandates that the legislature make suitable provision for funding public education. In 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a decision in the Montoy case ending litigation that had been filed in 1999 and ruled that the State was violating the Constitution by underfunding education. Despite what legislators are now claiming, the court did not determine the $4,492 Base State Aid Per Pupil that was eventually ordered in the case. Rather, the Court said the legislature had to look at costs in setting funding and then deferred to the legislature for the determination of those costs. The legislature commissioned 2 separate studies, and then set the $4,492 BSAPP. They agreed to a plan to bring funding up to that level, but after 1 year, the recession hit and funding levels went back down. As the economy picked up, school funding remained low, so a second suit was filed, Gannon v. State, to enforce the Montoy decision. A panel of judges determined that the State was still unconstitutionally underfunding schools. The State has appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. In response, we are now facing 2 constitutional amendments. The first would have the Governor appoint judges with senate confirmation, which would replace our current merit selection process and open our judicial branch to politicization and litmus tests. The second amendment would explicitly state that only the legislature can determine funding, thus taking away the ability of the courts to force the legislature to meet its constitutional obligations. Game On believes the Gannon decision was legally correct, and the constitutional amendments should be defeated.

Further Reading