Topeka Having already portrayed herself as driving the state toward better schools, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has a new TV campaign ad suggesting she brought order to a previously unruly legislative debate about education funding.
The new ad began Tuesday in Topeka and Wichita and will start later this week in the Kansas City area. It starts with Sebelius standing in front of a classroom full of arguing, paperwad-chucking adults, saying, "Yep, this is how things used to be."
It replaces a 2-week-old ad showing the Democratic governor in the driver's seat of a school bus, after children said "politicians" didn't care about properly funding schools until Sebelius stepped in.
Republicans long have argued Sebelius played an insignificant role in the passage of school finance legislation this year.
Christian Morgan, manager of GOP nominee Jim Barnett's campaign, said the ad indicates Sebelius is vulnerable on education issues.
"She's offered only glossy television ads," Morgan said. "It certainly shows that she's aware and her campaign's aware that she didn't do anything really measurable when it comes to school finance, so they have to run television ads to tell people that she did stuff."
Sebelius won the governor's race four years ago by wooing moderate GOP voters in a traditionally Republican state, largely by promising not to cut school funding in the face of the state's economic problems.
"Most polls that I've seen list education as the number one or two top concerns among likely voters," said Bob Beatty, a Washburn University political scientist.
The governor's latest ad claims Sebelius "broke through years of legislative gridlock to pass a plan that strengthens our schools." It's a reference to this year's school finance bill, which phased in a $466 million increase in aid to public schools over three years.
Last year, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't meeting a constitutional duty to finance a suitable education for every child. After this year's bill passed, the court dismissed a lawsuit against the state.
Sebelius' campaign furnished seven pages of documents to back up its ad, including comments from legislators, education advocates, and editorials and news analyses.
"She's been very clear about her commitment to public schools, and, of course, her ads are going to reflect that," said Sebelius spokeswoman Nicole Corcoran. "The governor was absolutely involved in bringing people to the table."
Morgan said it's telling that neither Sebelius ad mentions a specific piece of legislation Sebelius proposed herself.
In 2004, Sebelius did propose an education funding plan that would have phased in more than $300 million in tax increases over three years, but the GOP-controlled Legislature rejected it.