Brownback calls special session to address Kansas education funding

State Sen. Anthony Hensley, center, announces a petition drive to attempt to force the governor to call a special session.

State Sen. Anthony Hensley, center, announces a petition drive to attempt to force the governor to call a special session on education funding.

TOPEKA, Kan. – Answering a demand from Kansas Democratic leadership, Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement today calling for a special legislative session to address the May 27 ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court regarding Kansas schools funding. In his statement, the governor also continued his attack on the court for its ruling that current school financing legislation is unconstitutional.

“After discussion with legislative leadership, I have decided to call a special session to keep Kansas schools open, despite the court’s threat to close them,” Brownback said in the statement. “It is distressing that the Kansas Supreme Court has put the schools and legislature of Kansas in this position over less than 1 percent of school funding.”

Last week, House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley sent a letter to Brownback notifying him they had begun collecting signatures from members of the Kansas Legislature to require him to call a special session.

The June 4 letter accused Brownback and Republican legislators of neglecting “the needs of our children” and ignoring “our constitutional duty to equitably and adequately fund our schools.”

“Instead, you’ve prioritized a tax plan that is seriously damaging our state and our communities, while benefiting only your political allies,” the letter said.

Burroughs and Hensley put the blame for the state’s school funding situation on Brownback and Republican leaders.

“Your inability to lead and your Republican allies refusal to do their constitutional duty – has put Kansas on the brink of a constitutional crisis,” they said. “It is time to move past these failures, come together, and find a solution to equitably fund Kansas schools.”

In announcing its ruling May 27 in the Gannon v. State of Kansas education equity case, the Supreme Court said schools could not be open after June 30 under the current unconstitutional school financing formula.

Brownback followed the ruling with a statement blaming the court for closing schools and accusing judges of “playing politics with our children’s education.”

“We will carefully consider the implications of the court’s ruling and its disregard for the proper role of the Kansas legislature,” Brownback said.

In his announcement of the special session, Brownback said he will do everything he can to keep the special session focused on education, and is scheduling dates of the special session for later this month.

Hensley responded to today’s announcement from the governor, “It appears that Sam Brownback is finally listening to the people of Kansas who are very concerned about keeping schools open in August. However, it remains to be seen whether he and Republican legislative leaders want to comply with the Gannon equity order in a bipartisan way. Or, will they once again push through legislation that sets up yet another confrontation with the Kansas Supreme Court? The parents and children of Kansas deserve much more than to play politics with fairly funding our schools.”

Photo thanks to Sen. Hensley’s office.

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