July 23, 2014

Legislators, task force move school funding debate online

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
The battle over school funding is moving to anonymous internet tips as Gov. Brownback’s task force and Democratic leaders launch websites  seeking anonymous information.
The Governor’s School Efficiency Task Force last week launched an online portal where students, parents, concerned citizens and teachers can anonymously report school funding inefficiencies.
“Inefficient spending impacts Kansas taxpayers at every level, from the state General Fund to local property taxes,” Brownback said. “The state has increased total spending on education by almost $1 billion since 2000.  Many school districts have raised taxes on local property owners during that same time period.  Moving forward, we owe it to Kansas taxpayers to ensure those resources are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
Democratic Leaders Rep. Paul Davis and Sen. Anthony Hensley launched a second website asking for anonymous, firsthand examples of how education funding cuts have impacted local schools and families.
“Rooting out waste and encouraging public input are good practices in government,” Hensley said. “But Gov. Brownback is acting on the assumption that schools aren’t stretching every dollar to the last cent, even after he made the largest cut to public education in Kansas history.”
Gov. Brownback’s task force, headed by Ken Willard, is examining ways to funnel more state money into classrooms. Critics expressed concern that the 10 appointed members of the task force were not educators, but Brownback last week announced the addition of Iola USD 257 Supertinedent Brian Pekarek to the task force.
And, Willard said, the group wants additional input from other stakeholders.
“While task force members are researching and analyzing where inefficiences are occuring in our educational system, we also want to hear directly from Kansans who have their own ideas and suggestions on how to make our schools more effecient,” Willard said.
In response to the Governor’s Task Force, the Kansas Association of School Boards announced a commission of its own to study state education funding.
Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Davis said the debate over school funding is not just a line item on a budget.
“Parents, teachers and administrators ahve been on the front lines trying to protect the quality of children’s education with far fewer resources than they need to do the job properly,” Davis said. “To imply that they are excessively inefficient is downright offensive. It is time for Gov. Brownback to hear the stories and look beyond the bottom line.”
Democrats’ online, anonymous survey is being distributed via email and social media. All Kansans are encouraged to participate. Responses will be compiled and presented to the Legislature at the start of the 2013 legislative session. The survey can be found LINK.
The task force website to report school inefficiencies can be found at LINK.

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