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Western Kansas Lawmakers Accept Supreme Court’s School Funding Ruling, Open To Amending Constitution

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At a meeting with state legislators in Garden City Saturday, citizens questioned the Supreme Court's school funding decision. The legislators said they accept the court’s decision, but will at least consider amending the Kansas state constitution.

The meeting was Garden City’s first Legislative Coffee of the new year and was attended by three local lawmakers: John Doll and John Wheeler, both of Garden City, and Steve Alford of Ulysses.

The legislators answered questions from the public, including questions about the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent decision that education funding in Kansas was inadequate and inequitable.

Rep. Wheeler, R-Garden City, who is the former Finney County Attorney, said that while he believes the court acted constitutionally, he’s upset because the case was only supposed to address whether funding was adequate, but in its ruling, the court said the funding was also inequitable, something Wheeler said, “was not even before the court … I think that was wrong.”

Rep. Doll, R-Garden City, said he believes in the separation of powers and checks and balances provided by the state constitution. He said that while at some point the constitution needs to be reviewed, meeting the court’s ruling and accurately funding schools should be lawmakers’ top priority.

“We can argue the constitutionality, but right or wrong, we have to take care of the problem at hand … so we can keep schools open,” Doll said.  

Doll added that after the legislature addresses the court’s decision, it should consider whether the state’s constitution needs to be amended, presumably so that the Kansas Supreme Court would not be able to make similar rulings on school funding in the future.

Rep. Alford, R-Ulysses,  said court cases involving the legislature and the supreme court are costly to taxpayers.

“A lot of people don’t realize – who’s paying those attorneys – money from your school districts, it’s coming out of taxpayers money,” Alford said.

Alford made national and international news for a controversial comment he made regarding marijuana use, which he said was originally prohibited because blacks were “users” because of their “character” and “genetics.” Alford issued a written apology for those comments Monday afternoon.

Garden City is hosting four more legislative coffees this year, scheduled for Feb. 17, March 17, April 14 and May 19.