Topeka Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Holland on Thursday said he will oppose further cuts to schools, and he accused his Republican opponent, Sam Brownback, of supporting a plan that would require local property tax increases for education.
But Brownback’s campaign said their candidate wants to help develop a school funding formula that is “fair, understandable to the public, provides for equalization, and that promotes excellence.”
At a news conference, Holland said he supports allowing local communities to raise their taxes for schools, but, he said, Brownback’s plan would require a tax increase.
“That’s where my opponent and I differ -- he wants the state to abandon its responsibilities and force communities to pay more.
“I want the state to pay its fair share, provide for equal opportunities and then get out of the way of those communities who want to go above and beyond,” he said.
Brownback has said he thinks the school finance formula needs to be overhauled, but he has refused to say in what manner.
Democrats accused Brownback of supporting a plan by Rep. Arlen Siegfreid, R-Olathe, which would eliminate limitations on how much school districts could raise locally in property taxes.
It also 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. And it would also require districts to apply for grants to receive funding for at-risk and bilingual students and vocational education programs.
The Brownback campaign, however, declined to say whether it supported Siegfreid’s plan.
Instead, campaign spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag issued a statement that said Brownback will work with all stakeholders to work with the Legislature on a new school finance formula. She said Brownback is eager to hear about all school finance proposals.
Holland said the current formula is fine. Schools, he noted, have been hit hard by recent budget cuts, and he said he would invest new dollars into schools as the economy improves.