Every day, Kansas families make budget choices based on priorities. How much to spend on groceries, how much to save in a college fund, where to take a summer vacation, or whether to take a vacation at all. Many Kansas families are faced with difficult choices these days, trying to make ends meet.
Kansas government is no different. The Governor and legislature’s priorities are reflected in how they balance the budget. Last fall’s election left Kansas with the most conservative government in modern history. And if there was any question about the priorities our newly elected officials would bring to office, the recently completed legislative session should remove any doubt.
This government, led by Gov. Sam Brownback, did not prioritize economic issues and job creation. Instead they chose to promote a partisan agenda which they scarcely mentioned in last year’s campaign. The best example of their priorities is their de-funding of public schools.
When our children return to school in the fall, parents will be faced with higher student fees, teacher layoffs, fewer after-school programs, larger class sizes, and school shutdowns across Kansas. The $232 per pupil cut the legislature finally agreed to is the lowest level of funding in almost two decades.
The Governor and legislature will tell you we are in difficult times, and difficult choices must be made. I agree that choices need to be made. However, their choices reflect priorities very different from those of most Kansans. In recent years, we’ve confronted budget deficits with a mindset of shared sacrifice, preventing teachers and school children from bearing the brunt of a recession they didn’t cause.
Kansans believe in and fight for public education, for our schoolchildren, and for the future they deserve. We know strong public schools and a good education lead to good paying jobs and a strong economy. Just like Kansas families, our government must make choices based on priorities. Gov. Brownback has made his priorities very clear.
Joan Wagnon was elected Chair of the Kansas Democratic Party in February 2011. From January 2003 – January 2011 Wagnon served as Kansas’ Secretary of Revenue under Governors Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson.