TOPEKA — The student body presidents of Kansas’ Regents universities want to be heard as one voice, asking higher education funding not be negatively impacted by the Gannon school finance lawsuit the state’s Supreme Court justices are expected to rule on in the coming months.
“It makes a much bigger statement than us doing it individually,” Alexis Simmons, Washburn University’s student body president, said of the application submitted Wednesday requesting an amicus curiae brief be filed on behalf of student presidents’ advisory council, or SAC.
The council argues the Kansas Constitution should protect “all levels of public education, not just K-12.” Simmons and Jack Ayres, chair of the SAC and student body president at Kansas State, said the advisory council members fully support K-12 funding as good elementary and secondary schools produce better college students.
“We want all our schools to be solid schools,” Simmons said. “Those are shared goals.”
However, Ayres said postsecondary education shouldn’t have to continue bearing the brunt of funding cuts and rising tuitions.
“We are absolutely in support of K-12,” he said. “They’re critical to our success. We need to make sure that we have two systems that are successful and are supported.”
Ayres said when council members heard the Regents schools and other state agencies might have to make cuts as high as 18 percent to fund a $600 million price tag for K-12 education, they agreed something in the legal arena needed to be done.
“In order to have our voice taken seriously, we thought it needed to be done with an amicus brief,” he said. “We realized what kind of an impact a case like this could have on higher education. We think the court needs to hear our perspective on this.”
Simmons said the student body presidents have been talking for the past several months about how they can protect Regents students from continued tuition increases. Such hikes are expected if the justices rule state lawmakers have to provide the requested $600 million to remedy the adequacy portion of the K-12 funding formula.
“It’s reached a point where it (postsecondary education) would become inaccessible to every Kansan,” she said.
Ayres said the students’ intent to file a brief in the Gannon case has been well-received by many Kansas lawmakers.
“We’ve had candid, good discussions with legislators who have said, Hey, you’re right, we agree.’ I give a lot of credit to legislators for their receptiveness to this.”
Ayres said the council should find out soon whether the Supreme Court justices will approve their application to file the brief. The court has set an April 30 deadline for all briefs to be filed in the Gannon case.