Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Campaign Notebook: Democrats say Brownback’s school finance plan will lead to property tax increases

September 22, 2010, 10:43 a.m. Updated September 22, 2010, 4:21 p.m.


— Kansas Democratic legislators said Wednesday they have found Republican gubernatorial candidate Sam Brownback’s plan for funding public schools, and it would result in a massive increase in local property taxes and put rural schools at risk.

The Democrats point to a plan unveiled by state Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe.

Siegfreid’s proposal would eliminate limitations on how much school districts could raise locally in property taxes, and it would eliminate “pupil weightings,” which provide additional state funds for certain kinds of students, such as those not doing well in school, and for certain situations, such as districts that have high transportation costs. It would also require districts to apply for grants to receive funding for at-risk and bilingual students and vocational education programs.

“We must simplify and localize school funding,” said Siegfreid. “If we can accomplish these two goals, we eliminate many of the issues plaguing our current finance formula,” he said.

House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence disagreed.

“There seems to be a concerted effort by the conservative wing of the Republican Party to return to a system whereby schools are funded locally, which we know from experience will result in disequalized schools and local property tax increases,” said Davis.

“Property taxes disproportionately harm small-business owners, farmers and ranchers, seniors on fixed incomes and the middle class,” he said.

Brownback, a U.S. senator, faces Democrat Tom Holland, a state senator from Baldwin City, in the Nov. 2 election.

Brownback's goals

Brownback has said he wants to overhaul the current school finance system, but he has declined to say what he would like to see done. Brownback’s campaign did not respond to the question of whether he supports Siegfreid’s plan.

Last month, Brownback said, “We need to ensure that we are not supporting policies that strangle a local community’s ability to support their education goals. It’s important that with our diverse counties that we make certain that every community has the resources to maintain good quality schools.”

He has also said he wants a higher percentage of school funding to go directly into the classroom, that he will provide leadership on the issue, but that it’s the Legislature that needs to come up with an overhaul plan.

“Our K-12 funding formula is broken as is evidenced by the recurring lawsuits filed against it,” Brownback said.

Schools for Fair Funding, a coalition of more than 70 school districts, has announced its intention to file a lawsuit against the state, alleging that substantial cuts in state aid to school districts over the past two years violates prior Kansas Supreme Court orders and the Kansas Constitution.

Democrats' response

Democrats have argued that Brownback is wrong when he says it’s the funding formula that is the problem.

“The current school finance formula should not be thrown aside for this tried-and-failed approach,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka. “Kansas schools have shown considerable progress since the finance formula was last adjusted in 2005. Test scores are up and children all across Kansas are excelling in record numbers,” Hensley said.

In 2005 and 2006, Schools for Fair Funding won significant increases in school funding from the Legislature after court orders from the Kansas Supreme Court. But much of that has been rolled back because of budget cuts.

Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said the Legislature would have to increase school funding by $415 million to get the funding level up to what was approved by the Legislature in 2008.

Holland's stance

Holland, the Democratic candidate for governor, said if elected he will increase school funding as the economy recovers.

Holland has also said “as the state meets its commitment to public education” he is OK with local districts raising local taxes to support their local schools. But, he said, “Meanwhile, the state must meet its constitutional obligation to equalize educational opportunities across Kansas.”

Earlier this month at a Brownback campaign event in Overland Park with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Brownback said he wanted to copy some of the education reforms pushed by Bush.

Holland has criticized this, saying the Kansas school system is in much better shape than Florida’s.

“Rather than present a specific plan of his own, Senator Brownback wants to copy Florida’s failed education system where the graduation rate is among the worst in the country, where poorer communities are forced to raise property taxes to keep their schools open and where public dollars are given away to private groups through vouchers,” Holland said.

According to a 2008 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, the national high school graduation rate was 74.9 percent. In Kansas it was 79.1 percent while Florida’s graduation rate was 66.9 percent.


redhollyhocks 7 years, 8 months ago

Ahem, what a dumb headline. According to your article, Brownback has no plan....

itwasthedukes 7 years, 8 months ago

Raise property taxes, raise state income taxes, or cut spending. The third option never really discussed.

CLARKKENT 7 years, 8 months ago


BigDog 7 years, 8 months ago

Problem is .... no matter how much the tax payer puts into education it will never be enough. Even when K-12 education had the additional $400 million .... they were requesting an increase in educational spending of a couple hundred million more.

Just over 50% of the entire state budget is spent on K-12 education, another 15% of budget goes to higher education. That is 2//3 of the entire state budget on education.

Tax payers may not be so fed up with this stuff if money was actually making it into the classroom. More administration and fancier facilities does not make for a quality education..... quality teachers supported by the parents and administration make for quality education

BigDog 7 years, 8 months ago

By the way LJ World ...... your headline is a bit deceptive. A school funding plan by Arlen Siegfried is not necessarily a Brownback plan .... Siegfried proposes these kinds of things regularly. Scott you should know that from being around the capitol.

But I guess people most likely wouldn't read the article if it stated ..... "Democrats say Siegfried's school finance plan will lead to property tax increases"

avoice 7 years, 8 months ago

Most likely it was the Democrats themselves, not the LJWorld that attempted to spin this as a Brownback plan. Of course, we could also look at this as another way of saying that Brownback, lacking a plan of his own, is quite willing to let people think the Siegfried proposal aligns with his own views, if people like it. Or not, if people disagree with it.

situveux1 7 years, 8 months ago

Not only is this headline suspect, but where is the thought process from Rothschild.

From the Topeka Capital Journal, Aug. 19:

"Holland said if elected governor he would maintain the state's constitutional obligation to equalize opportunities for children while supporting a move to grant local school boards authority to raise additional property tax for schools through the local option budget process."

What's the difference Tom? Sounds like you have no problem increasing property taxes.

And Rothschild, Holland has stated this several times. Instead of trying to call someone else's plan Brownbacks, why don't you use your head and ask why Democrats are now all of the sudden worried about local property taxes when just a month ago their nominee for Governor was calling for the same thing?

Centerville 7 years, 8 months ago

Here's a tip to Rothschild, Holland and Davis: better stay away from the faux concern about taxes. You see, we actually noticed that you were the main cheerleaders for an 18% sales tax increase for no better purpose than to reward whining.

HMcMellon 7 years, 8 months ago

How can anyone is his right mind compare our education system in Kansas with that of Florida? That just goes to prove that Brownback knows nothing about Kansas. All he knows is how to extract campaign contributions from mostly foreign-owned oil companies and other monopolies, which have destroyed small business and have moved American jobs to China, Mexico, India and other places. Meanwhile, Brownback was one of those who has supported borrowing money from China that it made with its unfair trade practices that Brownback also supports. Brownback and other fiscal liberals have borrowed trillons from China and other totalitarian countries like Saudi Arabia to cover his massive his tax cuts for the rich, which has already driven America another $1.3 trillion in debt. If Brownback's tax cuts for the rich are not allowed to expire, they will cost America a trillion dollars more to continue. How about using some of that money for our schools, Sam, instead of rewarding those billion dollar CEOs from Europe, Saudi Arabia and China, who are siphoning off America's wealth? Brownback's liberal fiscal policies ate up our retirement funds and destroyed America's economy.. Now, he wants to do the same thing for Kansas.

thinkb4utype 7 years, 8 months ago

Why is there no follow-up from Siegfreid about the Democrats' charge that he's just a puppet for Brownback? Lazy... just lazy...

and btw, Siegfreid isn't the only one proposing changes to the state's school finance plan.. .. maybe the Democrats will want to say one of these are Brownback's secret plan:

thinkb4utype 7 years, 8 months ago

also - where's the follow up with Brownback on whether he does support vouchers for Kansas as charged by Holland? Rothschild, we know you are trying your best to get Holland elected but again, lazy, just lazy...

i found it in the Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 17th: "...However, Jones-Sontag said Brownback wouldn't support a state voucher program."

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