TOPEKA (KSNT)- Money for K-12 schools in Kansas could be put on hold, amid an ongoing dispute over the education budget.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed a controversial budget bill last week, but line-item vetoed one section of the bill that could’ve cost some schools money, according to public education advocates. Republican leaders are questioning whether the Governor has the power to make that move.
The overall K-12 funding is signed into law, but the Governor’s line-item veto could be tied up in if the issue moves to court.
“The office is reviewing the constitutionality of the line-item veto in question,” a spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office told Kansas Capitol Bureau.
According to the spokeswoman, there’s no firm timeline on when they will have a decision on the Governor’s line-item veto, but it could be this week.
The Governor’s decision to veto Section 14 of the education budget proposal, came after concerns from public education advocates.
“Of most concern, though, are changes in appropriations caused by altering the school finance distribution to schools in Section 14. The current school finance formula was approved by the Kansas supreme Court in the Gannon case. Changes to this formula run the risk of noncompliance and jeopardize our track record of constitutionally funding schools. SB 113 specifically changes the method by which school districts must determine their enrollment and thus the amount of funding appropriated by the state. Under current law, school districts may use the enrollment of one of the two preceding years to determine the level of state aid they are subject to receive. This essential element of our finance formula was crafted to ensure that districts with declining enrollment, especially rural districts, can properly account for this decline and make financial plans to ensure their own sustainability. SB 113 changes the formula so that districts must use the current year or the previous year’s enrollment when determining state aid.”-GOV. LAURA KELLY, D-KANSAS
Leah Fliter, Assistant Executive Director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview earlier this month, that the provisions in the bill could be devastating for Kansas schools.
“At least 100 of our districts could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each…potentially millions of dollars that our school districts could be losing, because the Legislature changed the way the schools are allowed to calculate their enrollment for state aid purposes,” Fliter said.
CONSTITUTIONAL OR NOT?
According to Topeka Political Analyst Bob Beatty, the dispute over the constitutionality of the Governor’s line-item veto stems from how the bill is structured.
“In previous years, the education funding has been put into the Kansas budget bill…that’s an appropriations bill. This year, the education funding bill was separate and included some policy aspects. The Legislature says, well, ‘it’s a policy bill…therefore the Governor can’t veto anything in a bill,'” Beatty said.
However, in the Governor’s veto message, she maintains that the bill contains items of appropriations.
“The legislative debate on SB 113 recognized this bill contains items of appropriations of money, and the Governor has the constitutional power to line-item veto such appropriations,” the Governor’s Office stated in a press release last week.
The Governor vetoed the provision under Article 2, Section 14(b) of the Kansas Constitution, which states the following, in part:
“(b) If any bill presented to the governor contains several items of appropriation of money, one or more of such items may be disapproved by the governor while the other portion of the bill is approved by the governor.”
The clock is ticking for the Attorney General’s office to make a decision, as school districts have started to finalize their budget process for the upcoming school year. This includes wrapping up contracts for teacher salaries.
According to Beatty, if the Attorney General’s office finds the Governor’s line-item veto unconstitutional, the issue could go to court.
“A lot of school districts have already figured out their budgets… they’ve signed contracts with teachers… It’s then very possible, the entire funding formula could be in the courts and tie all that process up,” Beatty said.