Archive for Sunday, July 11, 2004

Program cuts have harmed schools, governor says

July 11, 2004


— Don't tell Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that public schools have been "held harmless."

After the legislative session ended in May and now along the campaign trail, some lawmakers say that because no cuts were made to education, schools weren't hurt.

In an interview with the Journal-World, Sebelius dismissed such claims.

She said school districts across the state had been forced to cut into programs to make ends meet.

"If you have a bad teacher two years in a row, you may never recover from that," she said. "If you don't have an opportunity to take the math classes that you need to take in high school, to learn a second language, to be exposed to fine arts in school, it may never happen in your life.

"So there is no kind of 'held harmless' in the life of a child, and I think we need to take that responsibility very seriously."

A district court order on appeal before the Kansas Supreme Court says the state method of funding schools is unconstitutional because it is shortchanging all students, particularly members of minority groups.

Sebelius, who unsuccessfully advocated for tax increases during the past legislative session, said her administration would be working closely with lawmakers as the state awaits the expected ruling in the fall from the Supreme Court.

But, she said, regardless of what the court says, Kansas needs to improve its public schools to provide opportunities for the next generation and ensure a prosperous state.

"We have very good schools, border to border. What the goal should be is to have great schools," Sebelius said.

"By failing to fund, year after year, by failing to recognize that we need tough curriculum, high measures for success, talented teachers, better high school graduation rates, then five to 10 years from now we will pay the price, and we will pay it over the next 50 years."

And Sebelius, a Democrat in the middle of her term, said she probably would take an active role in this year's legislative election contests, even if that means trying to help Republicans who have supported or will support tax increases for schools.

"Clearly we will have a Legislature of Republicans and Democrats, and I am very pragmatic about having people here who are willing to go to work on behalf of their citizens and get something done. That may well happen," she said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.