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Kansas Governor Decides that Education Isn’t Important

In November, shortly after Gov. Sam Brownback won re-election, experts forecast that the state would bring in $1 billion less than expected over the next two years. He responded by cutting state agency budgets and proposing the transfer of funds among various state accounts. In December came news of a revenue slump, falling to $15.1 million below estimates. Mr. Brownback proposed increasing taxes on liquor and cigarettes, slowed reductions in the income tax and changed the way money was distributed to public schools.

But the governor’s budget headaches have continued: January receipts fell $47.2 million short of predictions, and Mr. Brownback has responded by cutting funding for public schools and higher education by a combined $44.5 million.

The Kansas City Public School District has already endured $45 million in lost state revenue since 2009, said Cynthia Lane, the superintendent. Mr. Brownback’s cut of 1.5 percent to public school funding statewide would amount to a loss of $1.3 million in her district, she said. That comes as the state has still not paid the district $3 million for capital expenses required under a formula intended to help poor districts. Mr. Brownback has asked legislators to change that formula, and they have proposed a bill that would reduce the district’s aid by another $1.4 million, Ms. Lane said.

Mr. Brownback’s Democratic opponents and some moderate Republicans blame the state’s fickle budget situation on the deep income tax cuts that the governor has ushered into law in recent years. The governor and his supporters say that the state needs to operate more efficiently and find more sustainable ways to finance its largest costs: education, Medicaid and public employee pensions.

On Tuesday, after signing the bill that allowed for the cuts and cash transfers to fill this year’s deficit, Mr. Brownback again urged lawmakers to rewrite the formula used to provide aid to the neediest school districts. If the Legislature saves money by doing so, he asserted, it could restore the $28 million in cuts to K-12 public schools that he called for this month. The governor has also asked lawmakers to overhaul the means for financing schools in general.

The increases in school funding have mostly gone to things unrelated to classroom instruction, like building expenses and pensions, said Mark Tallman, the associate executive director for the Kansas Association of School Boards.

Another complication is added by a lawsuit brought by a group of school districts and parents asserting that the state has violated the Constitution by not providing adequate funding for education. In December, a state district court said that Kansas schools were not adequately financed, a decision that was appealed before the state Supreme Court. If the court orders the state to increase spending, it could conflict with the cuts that the governor has ordered.

According to Vera Institute of Justice, True Cost of Prisons Survey in 2012, Kansas spent $158.2 Million on its prisons which amounts to $18,207 per inmate.  No school system in Kansas spends that much money on its students.  The governor must not have heard of the “school to prison” pipeline.  Governor Brownback believes that education is expensive.  It is not – ignorance is expensive. We either pay for education up stream or the lack of education downstream. Obviously the governor has made his choice.

 

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