Editorials

September 3, 2014

Mailings, billboard incredibly cynical

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee – both critics of public education spending – have been going after pro-education lawmakers for not voting for a school-funding bill. Wrap your head around that.

Call it the audacity of cynicism.

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee – both critics of public education spending – have been going after pro-education lawmakers for not voting for a school-funding bill.

Wrap your head around that.

What’s more, AFP and the Kansas Chamber have railed in the past about the Kansas Supreme Court ordering more funding for schools. Yet the funding increase they are now hailing was ordered by the court.

During the primary, both groups sent out mailers criticizing targeted lawmakers for not supporting schools. In one, the chamber PAC claimed that “when our schools needed a lifeline,” the lawmakers “voted no.” In another, AFP blasted lawmakers for siding “against our schools” in what it called a “landmark victory for our students.”

The chamber PAC also recently put up a billboard near Pittsburg State University claiming that state Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg, “failed Pitt State” and “failed the Gorilla Nation” by voting against $1 million in new funding for PSU (which was included in the school-funding bill).

What the billboard and mailers don’t explain is that the lawmakers favored the increased funding. However, they ended up voting against that particular bill because it also eliminated state-mandated due-process rights for teachers and granted tax credits for business donations to private schools. Those policy changes were tacked onto the bill late in the legislative process – at the urging of groups such as AFP.

Menghini said she supports more funding unless it is attached to bad policy that would harm other institutions.

“I don’t play those games,” she told the Pittsburg Morning Sun.

Pittsburg State leaders also are upset because the billboard infringes on the university’s brand and because people might think that PSU is campaigning against Menghini. Even Menghini’s GOP opponent, Chuck Smith, denounced the billboard.

“I had nothing to do with that,” he told the Morning Sun. “It even hurt my children’s feelings when it went up. They know I want to run a positive campaign.”

But such sensibilities don’t matter much to the chamber PAC and AFP. As the groups showed in 2012, when they smeared moderate GOP senators, they care more about their political ends than the means.

Still, the billboards and mailers are a tacit, albeit incredibly cynical, acknowledgment by the chamber PAC and AFP that Kansans care about public education. Voters should follow the groups’ urging and back candidates who support more funding for public schools.

(Hint: They are usually the candidates that AFP and the chamber PAC are attacking.)

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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