Gov Brownback's "Timeout" - Education Finance Wars

Gov Brownback's "Timeout" - Education Finance Wars

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From: Melika.Willoughby@ks.gov

Subject: Explained: Kansas Education Funding
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:02:41 +0000

Fellow Kansans,

We’d like to share a few pertinent facts on education funding.
· Governor Brownback is committed to investing in education
· He is working to fix a broken education funding formula so more money gets into the classroom to benefit Kansas students
· K-12 spending is $177 million more this school year than last. (And that is after the recent 1.5% allotment from K-12)
· The Governor has increased funding to K-12 education every year since taking office
· Currently, Kansas schools have more than $370 million in reserves to help them cover this small reduction in increased funding over the next four months

The Governor has requested a timeout in the education finance wars. The current education funding formula needs reform to ensure more money goes to the classroom to benefit Kansas students. Realizing the legislative process takes time, the Governor also has recommended a sunset to the current school finance formula effective July 1, so he can work with the Legislature on reforming K-12 financing with a new - and sustainable - formula. Until a new formula becomes law, Governor Brownback recommends use of a block grant to distribute state education funding. The Governor’s proposal would have school districts funded at the currently approved Fiscal Year 2016 and 2017 funding levels - which includes weightings found in the current formula.

The purchase of a $48,000 piano was an excellent example of the problems with the current school funding formula since the capital outlay funds used to purchase it could not be used in other ways, for example to hire teachers or provide them with raises. The block grant would combine some of the current finance formula funds into one, including capital outlay funds, and would provide districts more flexibility in how they can spend their money.

We hope this information helps you understand why the Governor is taking these actions.

Best,

Melika Willoughby
Deputy Communications Director
Office of Governor Sam Brownback

Here is an email exchange between Mr. McDonald and a member of Governor Brownback's staff.

Mr. Willoughby

You and the governor must be kidding me. You expect me and other Republicans as well as the rest of the good citizens of Kansas to believe these half-truths.

You mention how the governor wants to put more money into classrooms, yet the very funds that go into the classroom (general fund budget per pupil) has been cut grossly since the governor took office. If the total of those funds is anywhere near what it was when the governor took office, it is only because we are educating more students and because the the governor and the legislature admitted the courts were right and the governor-sponsored underfunding of the equalization funds was unconstitutional.

The current funding formula is not broken, it is just underfunded. The only reason it is underfunded is because the governor and the legislature gave that money away in tax cuts. While not generating the promised improvement in revenue nor businesses and individuals moving into the state, it has placed the state in the position of not being able to fund essential services, education being one of these.

Most of the additional funds the governor cites as going to education are make-up for the decades of the state underfunding KPERS. Granted the governor was not in office during this time, but many in the legislature were. They decided not to annually fund the state's share of KPERS. That became like a loan. When it came time to repay the loan, not only did the state owe the dollar figure of the underfunding, but it owed the interest that would have accrued over the time of the loan. Over decades, the underfunding turned from millions each year to billions through the miracle of compound interest. The KPERS mess is all of the state's own making. Any underpayment of the funds scheduled to repay our current liability will only contribute to an even larger debt down the road. That debt will be of the governor's making.

If the governor really cared about education, he wouldn't be advocating for the rewriting of the funding formula. It is not broken. Either the governor just wants to pretend to fund education but in reality starve it, or the governor is simply so naive he believes his own propaganda. Neither speaks to what I want from a governor.

The references to the price of the piano are a good indication of what is wrong with our party's current thinking. We correctly say that we favor local control, which I do support. We then sit in judgement of the actions of a locally-elected board of education without all the facts available to that board. On one issue after another, the governor and his legislature are passing laws which interfere with decisions at the local level. Look at the current attempts by the legislature to mandate state education standards against the decisions of duly elected boards at both the state and local levels. While espousing local control, our state government is acting exactly the opposite. Local decisions are viewed as supportable only if they agree with the governor.

As a Republican, I believe in a government that is only as big as needed, but I recognize that some government services are needed and I support a tax structure that provides for those services.

If he really cared about education, the governor wouldn't have campaigned for the ouster of the moderates from our party. That the people he has chosen to elect to the legislature are not blindly following his entire agenda is his own fault. Unfortunately, I and the rest of Kansas have to live with his folly.

We may have to live with this tripe, but don't expect us to believe the propaganda that you are using to justify the mess the governor is creating.

As a career public educator, Speaker Merrick thinks I produce little of value. Okay, maybe the thousands of current Kansas citizens I educated are worth little, but I suggest drivel like the email from the Governor's office contributes absolutely nothing except misunderstanding by the gullible.

A Republican that is not at all happy with our party's leadership.

Harry E McDonald III

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