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25th District

Mission Hills
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In Topeka: 
State Capitol Room 352-A
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Fairway
4124 Brookridge Drive
Fairway, KS 66205

Dear Friend:

After months of anticipation, legislators were put on notice of an impending decision last Monday afternoon in the Gannon school finance case. At stake was the constitutionality of the plan passed by the legislature earlier this year. 

Last week, the Shawnee Mission Post published responses from northeast Johnson County legislators. My response will sound familiar to regular Rooker Review readers as I reiterated my comments from July

From the Shawnee Mission Post:
Although the timing of the Gannon opinion took me by surprise, the verdict did not. In my newsletter of July 28 regarding our work on the school finance bill, I wrote:

“When I introduced HB 2270 in February, the policy and funding levels included were the result of years of research, input from the Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) and other education stakeholders, bicameral collaboration, and attention to the decisions handed down in Gannon over the years. Our choices were not arbitrary, but the legislative process is messy and compromise is necessary to keep legislation moving. There are several elements of the final product with which I disagree, but supporting the compromise was vitally important to move the process along and allow the court to review our work.

As the bill evolved, I stayed focused on the goal of drafting a finance formula that restored per pupil funding, with added categories of weighting to address the individual characteristics of the students in each district. We
experienced the difficult consequences of a static funding model during our two-year block grant experiment, making it abundantly clear we needed to ensure our funding mechanism is responsive to changing conditions within each of our school districts.

As with every Gannon proceeding since it came to the Supreme Court, I attended the oral arguments in mid-July. Very little about the content of the formula itself gave the court pause. The provisions at issue are a series of items added in the conference committee process:

  • 10% minimum floor for at-risk funding,
  • Use of capital outlay funds for property and casualty insurance payments as well as utilities, and
  • The requirement for a protest petition to increase Local Option Budget (LOB) from 30% to 33%.

The bulk of the hearing was spent addressing adequacy of funding. The court appeared visibly out of patience with the State’s arguments, particularly questioning the State’s claim that per-pupil funding below 2008-09 levels meet the adequacy test.

I have said since SB 19 passed that funding beyond the current level will likely be ordered. Schools are locking in plans for the upcoming school year, so additional funds will be of more use if schools have time to plan for next year and beyond. Whether we are called back for a special session, or are given part of the 2018 legislative session to craft a remedy, I am prepared to do the work necessary to properly fund our schools.”

Predictions became reality with the delivery of Gannon last Monday.

The most frequently asked question is "How in the world are you going to be able to address the court order?" My answer continues to be that if we remain calm and focused, crafting an acceptable remedy is within our reach. Many are already politicizing the situation. We are hearing familiar criticism of activist judges. Others are turning this into a battle between Johnson County and the rest of the state. Meanwhile, outside special interest groups like Americans for Prosperity are already hard at work spreading their propaganda (as discussed in my September newsletter). However, the children of this state deserve our undivided attention.

I spent much of last week engaged in preliminary conversations surrounding the “to-do list” this opinion lays out. For the remainder of this year, I will be working on legislative alternatives and welcome the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues to find a lasting solution. We must be ready to evaluate and debate as soon as the legislature reconvenes in January.

With this latest opinion, the problems have been considerably narrowed down and the path forward seems clear to me, though certainly not easy. Finding the consensus necessary to move the appropriate remedy through the entirety of the process will require your patience and understanding for the decisions that lie ahead. In that regard, I trust I will have your support.


Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
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Melissa Rooker,