Educators respond to Gov. Brownback’s stance on school funding

TOPEKA (KSNT) — This week KSNT News had a chance to sit down with Governor Sam Brownback for an exclusive interview.

During that interview the governor defended the current state of public education in Kansas, despite some very harsh criticism.

He maintains funding for public schools has never been higher.

“What you’ve seen over the last ten years we’ve added about a billion dollars of funding to K12,” said Brownback.

However superintendents like Dr. Julie ford say his math doesn’t add up.

“It’s just not what the reality of the situation is,” said Ford.

Ford and others say the number the governor points to now includes pension money for teachers and local money that’s just funneled through the state now.

“It’s based on accounting tricks, and nothing more,” said Dr. Martin Stessman Superintendent of Shawnee Heights Schools.

They say the temporary block grants are yet another trick, but the governor says those block grants provide districts with more flexibility to put more money into the classroom.

“What they would call flexibility, I would call robbing Peter to pay Paul, because you now are faced with a choice of using that revenue to fix a roof or repair a building or use it for salaries,” said Stessman.

Brownback also touts the new extraordinary needs fund schools never had before. It’s a fund that allows districts to apply for extra money in case of unexpected events, like a burst in enrollment.

“Nice that they took some of our money, and they created an Emergency Needs fund, and then we get to go and beg for it if we really want it,” said Ford.

So it’s evident there’s quite a difference of opinion on the issue of school finance in Kansas, but the educators I talked with remain optimistic as lawmakers create a brand new school finance formula moving forward.

The state is in the midst of a lawsuit over the temporary block grant funding that took effect this year, but the Kansas Supreme Court still has not issued a ruling on the constitutionality of that system.

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