Governor-elect Sam Brownback, working in his transitional office in Topeka, stated that he does not intend to replace $200 million in federal stimulus dollars that are set to expire. “I don’t see how we can do a lot of augmentation really anywhere”, Brownback said, referencing K-12 finance. School districts were cautioned earlier this year that such cuts were likely under a Brownback administration.
Currently, public schools are receiving about $200 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This allowed the state to direct $200 million in state revenues into other areas of the budget. It appears that Brownback does not intend to return that state funding back to K-12 education. This would not only leave public schools short $200 million, but would also invite federal penalties for failing to maintain funding for special education and other key areas.
Such cuts would come at a time when the cost of educating Kansas students is increasing.
Meanwhile, Brownback has indicated he does see room for tax cuts; particularly targeted cuts in rural areas. “I’m focused on growth”, Brownback said. Such actions on the part of Kansas government – claiming poverty regarding K-12 funding but still finding room for tax cuts – has led to yet another lawsuit against the state over school funding.
Despite the fact that K-12 education is the only constitutionally-mandated charge of state government and accounts for over half of the state budget, Brownback asserts that focusing on education would distract from working on key issues. Brownback wants to put his school finance overhaul plan on hold for at least a year.
Meanwhile, Brownback indicated he would support changes to allow capital outlay funds to be spent on instruction, at least temporarily. It is not clear how Brownback expects districts to then cover capital outlay expenses such as building maintenance and equipment purchases.
Brownback also wants to change the teacher licensure requirements to allow people without college training in education to teach in public schools. This mirrors recent federal actions, in which some lawmakers seek to allow untrained teachers and teachers-in-training through alternative programs, such as Teach for America, to be considered “highly qualified” teachers under NCLB.
Brownback also rejected the Kansas Board of Regents’ Kansas Commitment proposal, which would increase higher education funding by $50 million. Instead, Brownback suggested discontinuing degree programs that graduate small numbers of students, and reallocating existing higher education funds to areas “directly linked to the economy”, such as KU’s Medical Center and School of Pharmacy, and K-State’s School of Veterinary Medicine.
It is not clear whether Brownback understands that ALL of higher education is “directly linked to the economy” by direct creation of jobs, attracting out-of-state students, and producing a highly educated workforce.