Archive for Tuesday, January 9, 2018

In State of the State, Brownback calls for phasing in $600 million school funding increase over 5 years

Gov. Sam Brownback shakes hands with House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, before delivering his eighth and final State of the State address.

Gov. Sam Brownback shakes hands with House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, before delivering his eighth and final State of the State address.

January 9, 2018, 5:00 p.m. Updated January 9, 2018, 7:00 p.m.


— In his final State of the State address, Gov. Sam Brownback called Tuesday for phasing in a $600 million increase in school funding over the next five years without raising taxes, a proposal that both Republican and Democratic leaders said after the speech was unrealistic, with one GOP leader even calling it “insulting.”

“We have received the decree of the Kansas Supreme Court and are putting forth a proposal to comply, as we have done with the prior decisions,” he said. “My budget recommendation includes an additional $600 million in funding over the next five years.

“This multiyear approach will provide the time necessary for school districts to plan and spend this additional money more effectively,” he added. “My proposal does not include a tax increase.”

Sen. Marci Francisco, left, D-Lawrence, Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Rep. Tim Hodge, D-Newton, talk among themselves while waiting for the start of Gov. Sam Brownback's 2018 State of the State address.

Sen. Marci Francisco, left, D-Lawrence, Rep. Eileen Horn, D-Lawrence, Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and Rep. Tim Hodge, D-Newton, talk among themselves while waiting for the start of Gov. Sam Brownback's 2018 State of the State address.

Brownback’s budget director, Shawn Sullivan, is scheduled to brief lawmakers and the media on details of the budget proposal Wednesday morning.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled Oct. 2 that the current funding mechanism, which lawmakers passed in the 2017 session, is unconstitutional because it is both inadequate and inequitable.

The court did not give a specific dollar amount that would be needed to meet the adequacy requirement. But the Kansas State Board of Education has suggested it needs roughly an additional $600 million a year — on top of the $293 million increase that lawmakers agreed in 2017 to phase in over two years — in order to meet the educational outcomes the court has said are necessary.

Brownback also laid out three goals he thinks the state’s educational system should achieve: a 95 percent high school graduation rate, having at least 75 percent of high school graduates go on to post-secondary education, and accelerating the movement of schools to the new “Kansans Can” model recently adopted by the State Board of Education.

He also said he wants at least part of the money to be used to raise teacher pay so the average teacher salary in Kansas is higher than that of any surrounding state. He also called for adding 150 school counselors and psychologists a year, but did not specify over how many years this would take place.

In addition to adding funding for schools, however, Brownback also called for putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot this year amending Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution, which deals with school finance. However, he did not specify what kind of changes he would like to see, saying only, “We must stop the never-ending cycle of litigation on school finance.”

Legislative reaction

Legislative reaction was almost universally negative toward the governor’s call for phasing in a $600 million school funding increase.

“It’s not plausible,” said Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, in an interview after the speech. “I have my doubts. Severe doubts.”

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning speculated that the only way to accomplish Brownback’s plan would be to continue reducing payments into the state retirement system and sweeping money out of highway funds and to cut funding for other state agencies.

“None of those things are possible with what he just told everybody,” Denning said. “It’s an impossible ask. It’s almost a fairy tale. It’s insulting to me. It should be very insulting to the courts, because he’s just ignoring everything that they told us to do to solve this thing.”

Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, agreed the money would likely have to come out of retirement contributions and highway funds, and that funding would need to be cut elsewhere, as well.

“We’re already failing to meet our obligation to our employees and retirees,” he said. “The highway system is deteriorating. He also talked about pure water and adequate water, but he hasn’t funded any of that. So it’ll be interesting to see whether legislators have an appetite for making those hard choices.”

Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, who was a leader in putting together the bipartisan coalition that passed the 2017 funding changes, as well as a tax increase to pay for it that was passed by overriding Brownback’s veto, said she would like to see $600 million more go into education, but she doubted Brownback has the political capital to push his own package through this year.

“This governor, who fought us tooth and nail last year, vetoed us and forced the whole showdown, and then attacked those of us willing to override the veto throughout the summer and fall, now is so willing on his way out the door to spend the money,” she said. “... It baffles me why he didn’t just get to work with us last year and help lead us through the crises that we’re dealing with at the state level.”

Democrats, meanwhile, said they supported the idea of a $600 million increase in concept, but also were skeptical that it could be done without additional revenue.

“I think it’s a good place to start the discussion, in terms of what is an adequate amount of money that we have to provide,” Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, said. “We just don’t have the details that we need in order to proceed with any sort of serious consideration of his proposal.”

Brownback was not expected to deliver the State of the State address this year because he was nominated by President Donald Trump last summer to be the next U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The U.S. Senate did not act on his nomination before the end of the year, so it was sent back to the White House, which resubmitted it to the Senate Monday.

If Brownback is confirmed, he will be succeeded in office by Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

— Statehouse reporter Peter Hancock can be reached at 354-4222. Follow him on Twitter: @LJWpqhancock


Richard Heckler 5 months, 1 week ago

more political rhetoric and stonewalling ,,,

we need the funding now!

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 5 months, 1 week ago

And he is only saying this so he can try to make the Republican candidate for governor look good.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

What do you want from him? I thought him making a proposal for the most realistic option to fund schools would excite you? Both sides of the aisle have said they do not want to vote for a tax increase so what do you suggest? I am kind of curious what exactly you would like to see done about this issue. Do you want another tax increase? I just do not get it. He cuts funding and people complain so he tries to propose a plan to fund schools and people say he is just positioning for the next Republican Governor. Please tell me what solution to this funding situation would appease you?

Ken Lassman 5 months, 1 week ago

I agree that folks seem to be jumping the gun, Josh. They will release the budget details today (Wed.) and then we'll have a much better idea about how they will raise the school funds. If they are robbing some pretty important Peters to pay Paul, then it's a cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face move to keep your ideological purity stance of no taxes come hell or high water. But if that's the case, then Kansans will have to let their legislators know that they'd prefer to raise revenues through taxes rather than deeper cuts elsewhere. We probably won't have to wait long to see which way makes more sense.

Josh Berg 5 months, 1 week ago

Thanks for keeping an open mind Ken. I am not sure there are any Peters to rob in this situation. Though I am always a stout voice for lowered spending and lower taxes, this situation is completely different. I would rather have the spending in place and not have to be releasing inmates early just to save a few bucks. To fund this with simply cuts it would take 18 percent across the board and there are some Peters that do not have that much to give up.

There is no way a tax increase makes it through either side, however, so I can be pretty confident when saying that is off the table.

I just really want to know what Dorothy and others suggest. Are the very liberal people looking for that tax increase?

I suppose my other question is how much is enough? I was born and raised in Chicago and they have some fantastic schools. Though I was a private school kid my entire life, our public high schools were fantastic. Illinois has figured out how to have great schools but at the cost per pupil that we are currently at here in Kansas. What I really would like to see is administration positions slashed both in quantity and salary and that money given to the teachers. Go onto the local job boards and look at how many positions our school district is currently hiring in addition to the new superintendent they are bringing in. I am not saying these are the sole problems or the only fixes but playing around with some of these positions and numbers would go a long way to bettering the classrooom.

Ken Lassman 5 months, 1 week ago

Yes, having seen the budget proposed by Brownback/Colyer, I gotta say it is definitely robbing Peter even though as you say, there is no Peter around anymore to rob. You don't say that a tax increase will come out of this, but how is this going to work any other way? Like you say, nobody wants to turn out the prisoners to save a few bucks, but underfunding schools (and with dropping achievement scores that has come with reduced spending, I have good evidence that that's exactly what this is), amounts to jeopardizing our future, don't you think? What would you propose doing, remembering that we have a constitutional mandate to balance the budget each year. I don't see the need to hamstring the state Supreme Court as they are just playing their role in the system of checks and balances to provide what the school districts need.

I DO agree that school districts should be somehow more accountable for the amount of overhead that they have adminstratively. Any ideas on how to accomplish that?

Bob Summers 5 months, 1 week ago

This money will do what?

Make instructors instruct better?

How does this help the students break the world wide top twenty in reading, science and math proficiencies?

Brownback is a Liberal.

P Allen Macfarlane 5 months, 1 week ago

Apparently, you have a very curious definition of "Liberal".

Alex Landazuri 5 months, 1 week ago

i think you forgot to take your medicine Bob....last i checked, according to your previous statements, liberals raise taxes to spend everyone else's money while the conservatives kill taxes for everyone.

Richard Neuschafer 5 months, 1 week ago

Unfortunately, Bob's senility has lasted a lifetime. He's parroting the Rush Limbaugh, "If you don't agree with me then you are a liberal" brainwashing act. Bob easily falls for con artists such as Limbaugh, Fox "News," and Trump. He consistently proves the old adage, "A sucker is born every minute."

Richard Quinlan 5 months, 1 week ago

After all the money and time wasted on attorneys , courts , lawsuits , tax cuts , its time to pay up boys , you've had your chance to crap in the sandbox. Go ahead and monetize the necessary funding and spread it across the tax and fee base. Its time for Kansas to get first class education services and support our teachers and schools. Nothing is more important than educating and supporting our kids.

Richard Quinlan 5 months, 1 week ago

And just to add , any advice or recommendations by ANY Brownback administration official can be guaranteed to be absolutely incorrect !

Richard Heckler 5 months, 1 week ago

This man and any person in his staff and administration have masters in spin and phd's in BS.

His state of the union was nothing but hogwash. Brownback is an ALEC man and has been since his first day as a politican. The Koch dollars have this man on their leash. ALEC is the source of the speech content I say = Aegis Strategic GONE WILD

Kiss your right to vote,worker rights, wages that support ecnomoic growth, local public schools, fiscal responsible spending & pensions goodbye.

Richard Heckler 5 months, 1 week ago

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) was founded in 1973 by Henry Hyde, Lou Barnett, and Paul Weyrich, who helped build a nationwide right-wing political infrastructure following the reelection of Richard Nixon.

In the same year, Weyrich helped establish the Heritage Foundation, now one of the most prominent right-wing policy institutes in the country.

One year later, he founded the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, the predecessor of the Free Congress Foundation. In 1979, he co-founded and coined the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, and in 1981 he helped establish the ultraconservative Council on National Policy.

ALEC’s major funders include Exxon Mobil, the Scaife family (Allegheny Foundation and the Scaife Family Foundation), the Coors family (Castle Rock Foundation), Charles Koch (Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation), the Bradley family (The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation) and the Olin family (John M. Olin Foundation).2 These organizations consistently finance right-wing think tanks and political groups.

Members of ALEC’s board represent major corporations such as Altria, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Koch Industries, PhRMA, Peabody Energy, and State Farm. Such corporations represent just a fraction of ALEC’s approximately three hundred corporate partners.

According to the Center For Media and Democracy, over 98% of ALEC’s funding comes from corporations, special interests, and sources other than legislative dues (which run $50 per year for legislators).

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