Topeka An internal House Republican memo concerning House Speaker Pro Tem Arlen Siegfreid's school finance proposal, urges Republicans seeking office "to lie low over the weekend and hope this blows over in the press."
Last month, Siegfreid of Olathe unveiled a school funding plan that would increase reliance on local property taxes and eliminate pupil weightings. Democrats have been highly critical of the plan, saying it would hurt rural and low-wealth districts. They also said it represents the direction that Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback wants to go with school funding.
Republican email ( .PDF )
After several days of criticism, Brownback said he would veto Siegfreid's plan if it came to his desk.
In a Sept. 27 memo, Peter Freund who is the chief of staff to House Majority Leader Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, writes to Republican candidates and representatives. The email, obtained by the Journal-World, says: "Talking with Joe, the Brownback campaign, the Speaker and Majority Leader, as well as the Pro Tern's office who launched this plan at this time, we felt it best to lie low over the weekend and hope this blows over in the press. While everyone is in agreement that candidates should distance themselves as far as possible from the Pro Tern's plan, we must be ready for a likely attack that you are part of or will support a "House Leadership Plan" that "raises property taxes." Since Brownback already disavowed the plan, we didn't want to keep it in the headlines by also putting out a release that would repeat Rep. Siegfreid's comments that it is his plan and his alone. With any luck, when the Democrats launch this attack near early voting, the public will only remember a vague headline about Brownback and not a well communicated story about this Legislative plan by GOP Leadership to raise property taxes."
The memo also includes talking points from state Rep. Joe Patton, R-Topeka, who is chairman of the House Republican campaign committee. These talking points include:
"--There are a number of proposals to improve our schools' funding formula being talked about - I look forward to learning about all of them.
-- I will not vote for the state government to raise your property taxes - nor will I vote to force our school board to raise your property taxes.
-- I do support a community's right to increase their funding of their schools - if that's what taxpayers in that district want to do and vote to do so ... just like when Topekans voted a few years ago to raises property taxes to build the sports park and put air conditioning in the schools. That's what people mean when they want to give more control to local school districts. If they want to get into the weeds on the issue: Bottom line - the state has a constitutional obligation to provide our students with a suitable education and I support that responsibility but I will not vote to raise your property taxes. We've got to come up with a way to fund our schools that gets more money into the classroom and keeps districts from suing."