Appearing before the Special Committee on Education today, House Speaker Pro-Tem Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) outlined a plan to radically change how public education in Kansas is funded. Siegfried’s plan would result in a massive local property tax increase and put rural schools at risk. It draws striking similarities to a school finance plan offered by Sen. Sam Brownback, the Republican candidate for Governor, as part of his “Roadmap for Kansas.”
“There seems to be a concerted effort by the conservative wing of the Republican Party to return to a system whereby schools are funded locally, which we know from experience will result in disequalized schools and local property tax increases,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence). “Property taxes disproportionately harm small business owners, farmers and ranchers, seniors on fixed incomes and the middle class.”
Siegfreid’s plan is a continuation of Rep. Kevin Yoder’s (R-Overland Park) proposal during the 2010 session to cut public school funding by $86 million and increase property taxes by $65 million (according to State Department of Education figures). Democrats and Moderate Republicans rejected this irresponsible plan because it would have laid off teachers, led to larger class sizes, the elimination of critical student support programs and imposed a new tax burden on Kansas homeowners and business owners.
“We have been down this road before, and it is a road to ruin,” said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka), a member of the special committee. “Sam Brownback and House Republican Leadership seem determined to sidestep their responsibility to public schools and pass the buck onto local school boards, homeowners and small business owners. Local property taxpayers can’t afford the Brownback/House Republican Leadership Plan. Unfortunately, the public schoolchildren and local property taxpayers of Kansas will be the ultimate losers,” said Hensley.
The current school finance formula should not be thrown aside for this tried-and-failed approach. Kansas schools have shown considerable progress since the finance formula was last adjusted in 2005. Test scores are up and children all across Kansas are excelling in record numbers.
“The people of Kansas should be asking whether Brownback and House Republican Leadership can be trusted to ensure that our schools are funded adequately and fairly,” said Davis. “Property taxpayers shouldn’t be shouldered with a disproportionate responsibility for school finance so that Republicans can grant more tax loopholes to special interests,” said Davis.
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