Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 8, 2014

Another View: Kansas needs to find a way to invest in students

The most painful injuries are usually the self-inflicted ones. It’s one thing to suffer a painful injury. But when we cause our own injury, the extra feelings of stupidity and regret rub salt in our wounds.

When Kansas legislators realize that they are the source of their education funding problems, we won’t envy them the pain they will feel.

A ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court about school funding is expected any day, and the anticipated result is that the court will order the Legislature to increase its allocation to public schools. That allocation has shrunk each year since 2011.

Missouri has also wrangled with legal challenges to its funding formula for education. The most recent lawsuit put the focus on equity, noting that some schools were getting much more from the state than others.

While those issues linger somewhat, the average expenditure per student in Missouri was about $9,840 in 2013.

Kansas is projected to spend only $3,852 per pupil in fiscal year 2015. That’s down from a peak of $4,433.

In the meantime, Kansas has been on a budget-cutting tear. Since 2011, legislators have cut basic state aid by 6 percent. In 2012, Gov. Sam Brownback talked legislators into a $3.9 billion cut in personal income taxes. He argued that his plan would stimulate the economy and generate more revenues for public schools.

Here’s how two area school districts have reaped the benefits of that stimulated economy:

n The Galena School District has dropped its teaching staff from 70 to 58. The district’s superintendent does double duty as the school’s counselor.

n The Baxter Springs School District has kept teachers but cut other support positions.

In the effort to stimulate the economy, Kansas legislators have forgotten a key component of business: investment.

If legislators are proud of Kansas students and hope to keep them in the state with new high-tech jobs, then legislators must invest more, not less, in those students.

Yet from all indications, legislators may not even take action.

It’s speculated that they will resist any order from the state Supreme Court, cry foul over court usurpation and keep reducing the investment into public education.

This injury shows no signs of healing.

The Joplin Globe

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