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Sam Brownback: Kansas schools aren’t being shortchanged

  • Published Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013, at 12 a.m.

While the citizens of Kansas do appreciate the New York Times’ interest in the quality of education received by our children, the newspaper’s editorial board may be unaware of a few simple facts, judging from the conclusions drawn in its Oct. 13 editorial titled “Shortchanging Kansas Schoolchildren” (which was noted in the Oct. 16 WE Blog excerpts).

First and foremost, Kansas has great schools. Kansas children outperform the state of New York in several measures of academic achievement. Our elementary schoolchildren consistently score higher on reading and math assessments, and a much higher percentage of our high school students graduate career or college ready. In fact, the Kansas Legislature passed landmark legislation for secondary students that is now used as a national model for career and technical education in the United States.

Secondly, the citizens of Kansas are investing in our public schools. Since I was elected, state spending on K-12 education has increased by more than $200 million and teacher salaries have increased. At the same time, we reduced the tax burden on our small businesses and every taxpaying citizen of Kansas. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to increase spending on education and cut taxes at the same time. We have done it three years in a row by focusing our resources on the core functions of state government, which include education.

Third, the lawsuit referred to in the Times’ editorial was filed in response to education spending levels under Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. The decline in per-pupil spending it cited was the result of federal stimulus funds that expired in fiscal year 2011. The Legislature had not provided any tax relief to Kansas citizens at that time. In fact, Parkinson had to raise taxes just to provide the level of funding described as inadequate in the lawsuit.

The editorial sought to provide direction to the Kansas Supreme Court on the pending school finance lawsuit, as if the court’s ruling should reflect the values and priorities of the New York Times editorial board. I believe the court’s ruling should reflect the values and priorities of Kansans.

In Kansas, we value great teachers and great schools. We prioritize the spending of taxpayer dollars on core functions of government. We value the wisdom of the Kansas Constitution, which clearly articulates the Legislature’s sole authority to appropriate public monies. We prioritize policies that create private-sector jobs and grow our economy. We value a judiciary of Kansans for Kansans. And most of all, we love our kids, our state and our country.

Sam Brownback is governor of Kansas.

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