With only a few days left in the session, the pressure is on over education. The battlelines are pretty clear, the state legislature has been ordered by the supreme court to fund education. In their McCleary decision, the Supreme Court laid out specifically what had to be funded and that shifting the burden onto local municipalities was unfair.
Some legislators, such as Reps. Vincent Buys and Jason Overstreet, objected that the Supreme Court telling them exactly what to fund was “a constitutional crisis” and the justices are “violating the very Constitution every member of the court has sworn, by oath, to uphold. It is a crisis in which you will not prevail.” Tough talk, but will they back it up with action?
I spoke with Sen. Kevin Ranker about whether we will see legislators hauled away in handcuffs after this session. “Maybe not handcuffs, but if the Republicans don’t step up to their responsibility and fund our schools, then I could see a conflict happening. Look, if we can’t figure out how to fund education in this state, we deserve what is coming to us.”
The education proposal from the Senate Democrats involves closing tax giveaways to the oil and coal industry which should generate around $138 million, specifically for school supplies and cost of living increases for teachers. Ranker describes the budget as “a very thoughtful budget, but obviously it does not go far enough. Not nearly far enough.”
Ranker also pointed out that the big bill will be in the next session. “Next year, we will need to invest two billion into education in our state to meet the needs of our children, and unless we get realistic with ourselves and have a bold, new conversation about revenue. Unless that happens, we will be failing our next generation. It is either that or we wipe out every social program, every mental health program in the state because that’s what it would take.”
As the final day of session approaches (March 13th), we will see in the next week how the legislature deals with this growing crisis.