Gov. Brownback requests emailed concerns on education funding

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks to the press at Marco Rubio’s rally in Topeka on March 4, 2016. (File Photo by Austin Fuller | The Collegian)

Gov. Sam Brownback announced that he wants comments and concerns from education leaders and concerned Kansans on the future education funding plan. According to the Leavenworth Times, a letter was sent to more than 50 school districts, seeking input on how to improve the new school finance formula for 2017.

The Brownback administration has been widely criticized in the past for how it has handled education funding. In May, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state funding for K-12 education was unconstitutionally too low.

Now, Brownback is asking for opinions via email.

“I’m disappointed there’s not going to be public forums,” Janet Waugh, Kansas Board of Education member from Kansas City, said. “I’m hoping (Gov. Brownback) takes all the suggestions he gets and puts them together to see the most popular and most valuable to implement.”

Mark Desetti, lobbyist and director of legislative and political advocacy for the Kansas National Education Association, said policy should not be created by an email account because there is no public scrutiny and the public does not know who says what.

“There is no way the public can actually listen to what is being said,” Desetti said. “He is working behind closed doors without a public forum.”

Not all educators in the state received the email address.

“I read the article and didn’t see what the email address was,” Dawn Wayant, third-grade teacher at Logan Elementary in Topeka, said. “It would be great if an email was sent out to all the school districts so all the teachers could have access.”

According to the Kansas City Star, “administrators from across the state talked about a possible framework for a new school finance system that would create an equal property tax for all school districts and eliminate the local option budget.”

“I would like to see adequate funding going to all the schools across Kansas,” Desetti said. “I would like to see that there is recognition that some kids need more help; some are at risk, don’t speak fluent English or special education requirements. We need to react to realities and fund schools as things change so they can accommodate.”

Waugh said in the new education formula, she would like to make sure all students are educated at high levels.

“It’s important zip code does not determine the education a child receives,” Waugh said.

Wayant said special education requires a lot of funding.

“They need to take into account schools that have high tax base and school districts that have Title I schools,” Wayant said. “There needs to be more funding for poorer districts that have low-income families around it.”

Although the education formula only calls for grades K-12, the funding directly impacts higher education institutes as well.

Desetti said the problems in the state are affecting higher education.

“Kids in K-12 are being less prepared, and are having more trouble adjusting to higher education,” Desetti said. “Additionally, tax cut policies have resulted in large cuts, pricing young people out of college education. It’s just wrong.”

Ideas and proposals can be sent to until Nov. 30.