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Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Graves blames self, legislators for paltry school funds

October 24, 2001

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— Gov. Bill Graves took some of the blame Tuesday for the state's inadequate funding of public schools. But he ladled plenty on legislators, too.

In a speech to 200 parents and educators at the Kansas Expocentre, the governor said the Legislature shared with him the responsibility for shortchanging children in Kansas classrooms.

"There has been, in my mind, a collective failure at the Statehouse," Graves said. "We're all talking a good game, but we're not getting anything done."

Graves said he had proposed significant budget increases for school districts every year of his two-term administration. But the governor lacked the political firepower to overcome lawmakers in the House and Senate quick to find reasons every year not to invest tax dollars in public education.

"Hopefully, in the future, we will find a more pro-education Legislature," the governor said. "If the Legislature doesn't want to support public education, it's very difficult to stop them."

Graves was a luncheon speaker for the Kansas Association of School Boards' seminar on "Communities in Crisis: Suitable Funding for Public Education."

He outlined six myths perpetuated by legislators to thwart bills that would raise appropriations to the state's 304 districts:

Anecdotal "barber-shop" stories about Johnny not being able to read. Tales heard at the barber shop or cafbout somebody not reading well shouldn't be used to undermine funding for all Kansas schools, Graves said.

Public school districts hoard money in slush funds. The governor called this persistent idea "ridiculous."

Administrative costs consume too much of a district's budget, depriving kids in the classroom. Kansas administrative costs aren't out of line, Graves said.

All teachers are Democrats, and increasing state funding of districts puts money in pockets of liberal candidates. Teachers at the KASB meeting laughed at the idea their peers were left-wing.

No additional state money should be injected into a flawed school finance system until it's fixed. "There's nothing wrong with this formula that a little money won't resolve," Graves said.

Public schools don't deserve more state money because teachers exert inappropriate influences on students. Graves said some kids were better off gaining an array of perspectives in public schools instead of being limited to ideas fed them by parents.

Graves said his final session as governor probably wouldn't produce the type of education spending package the state's children deserve.

"I am not optimistic about this next session," he said.

While the governor may come up short, he said that reality wouldn't undermine his conviction that voters need to get more involved in the debate about public education funding.

He said folks all over the state should tell their representatives and senators that children deserve public policy decisions based on facts rather than anecdotes, conspiracy theories and falsehoods.

"I am going to work hard ... to push this debate," he said. "It's going to take time."

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