The Garden City Telegram
7/27/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Key lesson

Lawmakers should acknowledge link between schools, growth.

The governor came to town Tuesday to talk about education.

During a visit to Garden City, Gov. Sam Brownback touted the new Career Technical Education initiative, a program designed to help train students for high-demand jobs such as nursing, information technology and welding.

The state program offers to pay college tuition for high school students who earn college credit in technical courses and certifications in a technical industry. It also rewards school districts with $1,000 for every student who earns a technical certificate in high-need industries.

The governor's interest in technical education and its ability to fuel economic growth makes sense. Brownback has, however, failed to show true support for K-12 public schools in general.

His pursuit of massive income tax cuts and resulting revenue declines undoubtedly will lead state lawmakers to seek more funding cuts for school districts already hurt by previous reductions in state funding.

Ideally, a Kansas Supreme Court ruling would help minimize such fallout.

With the state mired in another lawsuit over school finance, the court may rule as it did in 2005 that the Kansas Legislature failed to meet its constitutional mandate to provide "suitable" funding for education, and order the state to provide more dollars for schools.

But one Brownback ally, state Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita, said his fellow conservative GOP lawmakers who dominate the Legislature would "give the courts the finger" and set their own course for future school funding — a sure path to additional losses for school districts that already have seen jobs and programs disappear, as well as higher property taxes as more of the funding burden shifts to local communities.

While dollars from the new technical education program were welcome — Garden City USD 457 received $26,000 — it's miniscule compared to the millions of dollars districts could lose.

School districts have a responsibility to educate students in a cost-efficient way. But undermining the institutions responsible for academic and technical education — both of which deliver workforce development — makes no sense.

The governor and his circle should acknowledge as much if they have a sincere interest in economic growth and prosperity in Kansas.