School cuts — Kansas' school districts by and large have masked their austerity for two years. But going into a third consecutive year of cuts to state aid, students and parents are beginning to notice a difference. Schools are starting to close — including one in the Haven school district, Mount Hope Elementary, a relatively new school built just 14 years ago. Teaching positions have been cut — by 7.4 percent statewide between the 2005-06 school year and last year, the latest for which numbers are available. Class sizes are higher. In the Hutchinson school district, 47 jobs have been eliminated in three years, and some kindergarten classes now have as many as 29 students. And property taxes have been raised in many school districts. Parents need to voice their complaints to state legislators and make them feel the pain they are now feeling about cuts to school budgets. — Hutchinson News
Eliminating tax — Stay tuned in the coming weeks for Kansans for No Income Tax. That's a new organization led by Ashley McMillan, who once was executive director of the Kansas Republican Party. The group wants the Legislature to abolish the state income tax and will be making the rounds statewide to garner support. We're all for reducing or even eliminating taxes . . . as long as there's enough revenue to fund important state programs and services. As it is, we're wary of Gov. Sam Brownback's plans to reduce state income taxes for individuals as well as businesses as part of a larger tax overhaul he has in mind. — Manhattan Mercury
How would the state general fund sustain a 50 percent-plus hit? Is it possible there is more than $2.42 billion worth of unnecessary spending currently taking place in Topeka? Or would the missing revenue be made up in other areas? The only states that have been able to reduce or eliminate income taxes have been ones with a booming tourism business or significant natural resources such as oil. Kansas does not possess enough of either to make up $2.42 billion. — Hays Daily News
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Miller — Deb Miller announced that she would step down as secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation at the end of this year. Miller was the first woman to lead KDOT and the only previous Cabinet member retained by Gov. Sam Brownback when he took office last January. Her service in the administrations of three different governors is a testament to her stature and expertise as a transportation leader. — Lawrence Journal-World
Dental help — Kansas has a severe shortage of primary-care dentists, especially in rural areas. Of the state's 105 counties, 93 are underserved and 15 have no dentists at all. A coalition of health and consumer advocates along with safety-net clinics wants the Kansas Legislature to create a new category of dental professionals to help fill the gap. It's an excellent idea. Lawmakers should pass legislation enabling "registered dental practitioners" to be trained and licensed for some routine procedures, like filling cavities, that currently must be done by dentists. Practitioners would train with dentists and work under their supervision, although not necessarily at the same location. — Kansas City Star