As schools face shutdown, Kansas Senate mulls Obama's bathroom order

The state high court's ruled that school districts are inequitably funded, as Senate Republicans turn their attention to a possible resolution opposing Obama's directive on public accommodations for transgender students.

Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal/AP/File
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, left, along with other state officials, watch Kansas Supreme Court proceedings in May. The state's high court ruled last week that legislators' unequal public school funding violated the state's constitution.

The Kansas Senate is considering a resolution condemning a recent Obama administration decree that public schools allow transgender students to use the restrooms that match their gender identity, not their sex at birth.

The nonbinding resolution comes less than a week after the state Supreme Court ruled that legislators failed to equitably fund the state’s 286 public school districts. Justices warned that public schools will be unable to open in August if legislators don't pass a measure by June 30 that adequately funds poor school districts. Opponents of the measure contend that it serves as a distraction on the last day of the annual session.

The resolution urges the Republican-led U.S. Congress to blunt the directive by passing legislation that protects privacy rights. It also encourages Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to consider filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education, which issued the order. Texas and 10 other states already have filed suit against the federal government over the directive.

Senate Majority Leader Terry Bruce, a Hutchinson Republican, said President Barack Obama "overstepped his bounds" by issuing a decree on what should be a state-level decision.

"I think that it's a distraction for the federal government to do it and it's also unconstitutional," Bruce said. The directive was the catalyst for the resolution, but his constituents also expressed dismay that the federal government was ignoring local control, he added.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said in a statement that the resolution is misguided.

"Republican legislators have once again failed to comply with their constitutional duty to fairly fund our schools," Hensley said. "If they truly concerned about keeping schools open in August, they should use the Sine Die (last day) session to appropriate $38 million for school funding equity rather than waste taxpayers' dollars on an election year charade over which bathroom students can use."

Equality Kansas, the state's leading LGBT group, has planned a rally Wednesday on the ground floor of the Kansas Statehouse to oppose the proposed resolution.

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, also rebuked legislators for using the final day of the session to focus on the federal directive instead of the school funding formula.

"I think that the priorities of our Legislature are completely skewed," Witt said.

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