School ruling – “Yes, money makes a difference.” A panel of three Kansas judges made that declaration last Tuesday when it issued a ruling that affirms what educators and parents have long contended: Children in well-funded schools gain better educational outcomes, and Kansas is cheating its children and its future by inadequately financing public schools. The ruling should be more inspiration for Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature to roll back the tax cuts that have left the state barely able to function.
The state will appeal the school-finance ruling, the result of a lawsuit in which Hutchinson USD 308 was a primary plaintiff. And this won’t be settled anytime soon, at least not in time to affect the 2015 legislative session’s budgeting. Still, if the governor and legislators were smart, they would see the writing on the wall and start working on a plan to funnel more money to K-12 education. It wouldn’t hurt to get a start on it this session.
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Tax experiment – Kansas’ economic experiment has been anything but an example to follow. Even conservative Republicans nationwide consider the Sunflower State’s situation an example of what not to do. There is indeed a cautionary tale in the massive income tax-cut program from Republican Gov. Sam Brownback that’s driving upward of $1 billion in budget shortfalls this fiscal year and next.
Child support – In September 2013 the state turned child-support collection duties over to private vendors in an effort to boost collections. A Topeka newspaper used an open records request to obtain data showing that the percentage of current child-support payments collected by the state during federal fiscal year 2014 was lower than in 2013. In fact, it was the lowest percentage collected by the state since 2000, and a lower actual dollar amount than in 2013. The collection percentage for past-due child support also fell to a 13-year low. The move toward privatizing government functions has gained considerable favor among state officials in recent years as a way to cut costs and improve efficiency. Those are both good goals, but they shouldn’t come at the expense of reduced services and benefits for Kansas residents.
Traffic deaths – Traffic data maintained by the Kansas Department of Transportation shows fatality accidents increased 54 percent over a recent two-year period on Kansas highways where the speed limit has been raised to 75 mph. It is unlikely the speed limit will ever revert to 70 mph on the selected highways, which include I-135 north of Wichita and parts of I-35, I-70, U.S. 69 highway and I-470. And it should be noted Kansas isn’t the only state that allows higher speeds on some stretches of highway. But Kansans need to be aware of what is happening on their highways and drive carefully. And obey the speed limit.