Thursday, September 18, 2014

BROWNBACK: Responding to New York Times education critics

By SAM BROWNBACK, Kansas Governor | 11/1/2013

[Editor’s note: The following is Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s response to an Oct. 13 New York Times editorial, “Shortchanging Kansas Schoolchildren.”

The New York Times would not allow The Herald to republish its editorial in full, but the opinion piece’s main argument read, “In signing a five-year, $3.7 billion tax cut, Gov. Sam Brownback took the position that cutting taxes did more to create jobs than meeting per-student aid formulas. That dodgy rationale was argued in the [Kansas] Supreme Court ... when a group of school districts and parents sued for their fair share of aid under the state Constitution’s ‘suitable provision’ mandate. State spending on education has fallen an estimated 16.5 percent since 2008, including $500 million in cuts under the Brownback administration, resulting in teacher layoffs and larger class sizes.”]

Dear New York Times Editorial Board:

While the citizens of Kansas do appreciate your interest in the quality of education received by our children, it appears you may be unaware of a few simple facts. Therefore, I would respectfully request that you reconsider the conclusions drawn in your recent editorial entitled “Shortchanging Kansas Schoolchildren” in light of the following:

First and foremost, Kansas has great schools. Kansas children outperform the state of New York in several measures of academic achievement. Our elementary school children consistently score higher on reading and math assessments and a much higher percentage of our high school students graduate career or college ready. In fact, the Kansas Legislature passed landmark legislation for secondary students that is now used as a national model for Career and Technical Education in the United States.

Secondly, the citizens of Kansas are investing in our public schools. Since I was elected, state spending on K- 12 education has increased by more than $200 million and teacher salaries have increased. At the same time, we reduced the tax burden on our small businesses and every taxpaying citizen of Kansas. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to increase spending on education and cut taxes at the same time. We have done it three years in a row by focusing our resources on the core functions of state government, which includes education.

Third, the lawsuit referenced in your editorial was filed in response to education spending levels under Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. The decline in per-pupil spending you cite was the result of federal stimulus funds that expired in Fiscal Year 2011. The legislature had not provided any tax relief to Kansas citizens at that time. In fact, Gov. Parkinson had to raise taxes just to provide the level of funding described as inadequate in the lawsuit.

Your editorial seeks to provide direction to the Kansas Supreme Court on the pending school finance lawsuit. In doing so, you seem to believe that the court’s ruling should reflect the values and priorities of the New York Times Editorial Board. I believe the court’s ruling should reflect the values and priorities of Kansans.

In Kansas, we value great teachers and great schools. We prioritize the spending of taxpayer dollars on core functions of government. We value the wisdom of the Kansas Constitution, which clearly articulates the legislature’s sole authority to appropriate public monies. We prioritize policies that create private sector jobs and grow our economy. We value a judiciary of Kansans for Kansans. And most of all, we love our kids, our state, and our country.

Sam Brownback is the governor of Kansas.

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