With Gov. Sam Brownback contemplating cuts in the state income tax and making other potential changes in revenue sources, Democrats are organizing a forum to consider how such efforts might drain state financing for public schools.
And they’ll convene in one of the two counties statewide that Brownback failed to carry in the November election.
“You’ve got to start somewhere,” said Ed Quick, chairman of the Douglas County Democratic Party. “If people see we’re talking about it, then other places in the state will start talking about it.”
The forum, featuring three panelists involved in public education, is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vt.
The goal is to crystallize issues likely to become major initiatives during the upcoming legislative session, Quick said. Brownback is likely to push for cutting the state income tax, a major source of revenue for a statewide budget that already sends more than half of its revenue — more than $3 billion — into K-12 education.
If cutting taxes led to less revenue, Quick said, then it would be logical to expect the state to continue reducing the amount of money sent to school districts.
The Lawrence school district is enduring a $3 million cut from the state for this academic year, following cuts of $4.6 million for 2010-11 and more than $3 million for 2009-10.
“That sets a difficult stage for educating kids than in years when you have money to add programs and provide raises,” said Vanessa Sanburn, a member of the Lawrence school board.
The panel for Saturday’s forum will feature Sanburn, elected to the board in 2009; Mark Desetti, director of legislative and policy advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association; and Cathy Cook, executive director for Kansas Families for Education.
Brownback — who in the 2010 election trailed Democratic challenger State Sen. Tom Holland of Baldwin City only in Douglas and Wyandotte counties — won’t face election for another three years, Quick said, so voters interested in opposing cuts to public education need to focus their attention on legislators and legislative candidates.