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Brownback's push for school funding is pure political theater

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Governor Sam Brownback is busy touring elementary schools this week, allegedly to rally support for funding all-day kindergarten.

Allegedly.

With some common sense, logic, and a look at recent history it becomes clear what Brownback is really up to.
Let’s start with common sense. Does Brownback really need to convince public school teachers of the need to fund public schools? Surely not - that defies common sense. (To be fair, there are copious campaign photo-ops in kindergarten classrooms. That’s common sense.)

How about logic? Statute is written by legislators, not kindergarten teachers. If Brownback really wants to fund all-day kindergarten, he should tour legislative offices – not elementary schools. And merely authorizing money to be spent isn't good enough. The state must also collect sufficient revenue to actually pay for any appropriations permitted by statute. Kindergarten teachers cannot levy taxes, so Brownback needs to take this up with the legislature as well. That is, if he honestly wants it.

Today’s statutory base state aid per-pupil (BSAPP) is $4,492, but this level of funding exists only on paper. The budget, signed by Sam Brownback, delivers a mere $3,838 per pupil – the lowest BSAPP in 15 years. Meanwhile, Brownback’s tax policy “experiment” is projected to cause a deficit of nearly $800 million by 2018.

Logic dictates that if you honestly intend to pay for something, you don’t turn away the essential revenue. Brownback has done just that. He’s either really bad at arithmetic, or he has no intention of properly funding education. Recent history answers this dichotomy.

Last year, Sam Brownback toured Kansas’ public universities - allegedly to rally support for higher education funding. He then returned to Topeka and cut $34.3 million in funding from our state universities. Campaigning for governor in 2010, Brownback promised to protect K-12 education funding. Upon taking office, he signed the largest cut to public school funding in Kansas history. Now Brownback is campaigning again, and nothing more.

The latest polls show strong support for public education, and a strong majority of Kansans agree that public schools are underfunded. Kansans want the Supreme Court to intervene, forcing Brownback and the legislature to uphold the constitution. Poll results also show Brownback trailing Paul Davis, his presumed rival in the next election.

So Brownback hits the road to do what he does best: political posturing. He’ll tour public schools and talk up the need to fund them – like he’s done every year before. And like every year before, it will come as no surprise what happens to public education when the budget hits his desk.

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