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My Two Cents of Common Sense
"Northwest Kansas holds some truly inspiring scenery, contains a wealth of Old West history, possesses some of the finest educational institutions, promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to some of the most hard-working, genuine people I've ever met!"    ~ Adam Smith
1970 RD 3 Weskan, KS 67762
785-821-2568 (Cell)
300 SW 10th St, Suite 512N Topeka, KS  66612
785-296-0715 (Office)

The Kansas Constitution and Public Education
A historical summary and update on a potential 2018 amendment

As the debate ensued in the legislature this week pertaining to school finance, coinciding efforts have been intensely undertaken to propose and promote a constitutional amendment regarding education funding.

Currently Article 6, section 6 (b) of our state constitution reads "The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state." This little 15 word sentence has spawned years of controversy, and arguably only one word of that sentence has been the center of dispute...


I'm not going to bore you with a history of the most recent litigation, the failed remedies, and arguments from various sides... I've covered that in previous newsletters. But as we approach the possibility of the people of Kansas voting on adopting a constitutional amendment, I thought it would be beneficial to take a historical look at our current language. How and when did it get there... and why? Who put it there and what was there before it? In researching the answers to those questions, I found some interesting information!

In 1861, when Kansas became a state, our first constitution held nine education provisions in article 6 which dealt with the basic education needs of early pioneers. The original language stood for over 100 years.

The School Unification Act of 1963 significantly reduced the number of districts in the state – from 1,745 down to 380 in an attempt to make education more cost efficient by consolidating many of the single-teacher township elementary schools. Then, in 1965, the legislature requested a comprehensive study (sound familiar?) to look at the education provisions in our constitution and consider any necessary amendments to modernize it. The result of that study suggested that the entire article 6 be rewritten and provided their recommended new language.

However, what ultimately got passed out of the legislature looked nothing like what was recommended.

If you are a historical documents buff like me, you might enjoy reading this 1965 report – it can be found on the Kansas Government Information Online Library. The proposed section 6 (b) can be found on page 31 of the report, which is actually page 38 of the electronic imaged document. The entire report is an interesting read!

So how did we end up with our existing language?

In 1966, a special session was called by Governor Avery to address legislative district reapportionment. Some of you may recall this was in response the United States Supreme Court decision (Reynolds v. Sims 1964) which established “one person, one vote” where each state legislative district had to be redrawn to relative equal population rather than one per county as it had been since statehood. While reapportionment was the main constitutional amendment considered, two others were also proposed – one on rolling conformity income taxation and one on public education.

Even after reviewing minutes of the committee meetings, it is unclear who actually developed the existing language, but it was significantly different than the study's recommendation. There were actually three different education amendments proposed, but this one was the only one that gained any traction. It was introduced on Feb. 16, passed the House on Feb. 21, and passed the Senate on Feb. 24. You can access the 1966 House and Senate Journal to read the sequence of events as they occurred during that special session.

Our area Representatives in 1966 were Harry Lutz of Sharon Springs, Donald Smith of Colby, John Golden of Goodland, Bob Cram of St. Francis, Albert Glad of Atwood, A. Rex Cozad of Norcatur, and our Senators were Claud Bell of McDonald and Jack Barr of Leoti. All these legislators ultimately voted in favor of the amendment. Rep. Cozad had voted no initially on the original resolution, but then voted in favor of the final proposition. Sen. Bell voted in favor on the original resolution but was absent or abstaining on the final proposition. Senator Barr and Representative Smith both served on the Legislative Council at the time of the study and were no doubt significantly involved in the process.

Now that we’ve learned the who, what, when, how, and why… let’s fast-forward to the “now”.

This initial 2018 constitutional amendment was proposed by and introduced on behalf of a group called the Coalition for Fair Funding, which consists of several organizations including the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Contractors Association, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and others. It was significantly amended in committee. As it stands right now, the amendment clarifies that the court has jurisdiction over equity and the funding formula and the legislature has sole jurisdiction over the total statewide funding allocation. The most recent version can be found on the Kansas Legislature website under House Concurrent Resolution 5029. It has passed out of the Judiciary committee and is available for debate on the House floor, although it is currently not scheduled. At this point, it appears that it will not be addressed until May, but that could easily change.

The constitutional amendment is certainly a passionate topic, and I have received phone calls and emails both strongly in favor and strongly opposed. I always respect and value everyone’s opinion. I believe we need to make sure our northwest Kansas children don’t get treated unfairly as urban schools consume the vast majority of state aid. I also believe we need to be wary of the tax burden we place on the northwest Kansas citizens. I believe we cannot shirk our responsibilities to other state needs and services because they are not constitutionally protected. We must find that balance between providing good services and education under tax policy that is stable and sustainable into the future without crippling Kansas families and businesses.
I strive to create and maintain constituent relationships through good communication. Two-way communication is essential to my effectiveness as a legislator in promoting successful solutions for Northwest Kansas! Please consider subscribing to my contact list or send me an email and I will add you.
Copyright © 2018 Smith For Kansas, All rights reserved.

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