Statehouse Live: Democrats launch school funding website to counter Brownback’s

Speaking Monday at Highland Park Central Elementary is Karen Godfrey, president of the Kansas-National Education Association. Behind her from left are Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. The three unveiled a website for Kansans to take a survey on how school finance cuts have affected schools.

? Angered over Gov. Sam Brownback’s solicitation of anonymous comments about allegations of waste in public schools, Democrats launched a website Monday seeking examples of how cuts to education over the past several years have affected schools and families.

“Administrators, parents, and teachers have been on the front lines trying to protect the quality of our children’s education with far fewer resources than they need to do the job properly,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence. “To imply that they are excessively inefficient is downright offensive. It’s time for Gov. Brownback to hear the stories and look beyond the bottom line.”

The Democrats’ survey is online at

Democrats have been pounding Brownback, a Republican, over school finance.

Last year, Brownback signed into law a record cut in base state aid per pupil and this year he approved a massive tax cut that many say will rob funds from schools and social services. Brownback has said the tax cuts will grow the economy.

Last month, Brownback appointed a 10-member task force with no educators to ferret out wasteful spending in schools and later announced a website for Kansans to submit examples of inefficiencies in the school system. The website is https://governor.ks/efficiency. Brownback said he wanted more of the state’s allocation to public schools to go into classroom instruction. Brownback later added a school superintendent to the task force.

But Democrats said Brownback was going to use the task force and website to criticize school spending.

“His website seems like nothing more than a forum to demonize educators,” state Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said at a news conference at Highland Park Central Elementary School.

The website for the Governor’s Task Force on School Efficiency also received a suggestion from the Kansas Parent Teachers Association to open the inefficiency tipline to “capture information similarly on best practices.”

In an email to the task force, Mary Sinclair, Kansas PTA Legislative Co-chair, said, “Please consider the following recommendation: Add a second efficiency tip line — one that is solution oriented. Provide a parallel link for tipsters to report and share successful strategies they have implemented in their school or district to become more efficient — strategies that other schools could adopt.”

Karen Godfrey, president of the Kansas-National Education Association and a 30-year teacher in the Seaman school district, said the task force and website launched by Brownback “borders on insulting.”

“Kansans are really proud of their schools. They should be because they are doing really well,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said teachers, parents and administrators work all the time to stretch dollars in the school system, but noted that recent budget cuts have been harmful.

“We have had real losses in the last years from budget cuts,” Godfrey said. Programs and personnel that have been cut entirely or reduced across the state include summer school, music, art, counselors, libraries, textbooks and professional development, she said.

Hensley and Davis said responses to their survey will be compiled and presented to the Kansas Legislature at the start of the 2013 session in January.