AP: Kansas school spending task force loaded with CPAs

10/3/2012

TOPEKA (AP) — Democratic leaders on Tuesday questioned Gov. Sam Brownback's appointments to a task force charged with finding efficiencies in Kansas schools, noting he didn't name a single teacher or administrator to the panel.

TOPEKA (AP) — Democratic leaders on Tuesday questioned Gov. Sam Brownback's appointments to a task force charged with finding efficiencies in Kansas schools, noting he didn't name a single teacher or administrator to the panel.

The Republican governor named task force members last week, saying he was concerned that schools aren't spending enough money on classroom instruction. Several accountants, a State Board of Education member and the governor's budget director were appointed to the panel.

Democrats said Tuesday at a Statehouse news conference that it would have been proper to include at least one teacher or administrator to get input from people who work inside schools.

"All you have to do is look at the members who have been appointed to this task force to question its real purpose," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, of Lawrence. "It seems to me that if you want to study education, you should probably consult with educators."

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for Brownback, told the Lawrence Journal-World that the governor wanted a task force with expertise in finance and spending.

Brownback's administration maintains that school districts aren't spending 65 percent of state aid on classroom instruction as required by law. Democrats counter that the requirement is a goal, not a law.

Not true, said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, of Topeka, citing figures provided to Democrats that indicate districts were hitting the 65 percent target.

Democrats continue to argue that public schools will face the brunt of cuts in state spending as Kansas implements a package of income tax cuts starting in January. Projections from the Legislative Research Department suggest that the state will take in some $2.5 billion less in taxes over the next several years.

Brownback's budget director Steve Anderson asked state agencies, including public schools and higher education, to prepare budget requests that showed how they would cut 10 percent from current budgets if necessary next year.

The governor said last week when he announced the task force that it would seek efficiencies by "identifying best practices for cutting administration cost, reducing overhead and providing a greater percentage of state resources to support education."

"Providing a quality education to the children of Kansas is one of the core functions of state government and will remain a top funding priority for my administration," Brownback said.

Hensley said public schools account for 62 percent of the 2013 state budget, while the 32 Kansas Board of Regents schools make up another 12 percent.

He said reductions in state revenues caused by the tax cuts could mean an estimated reduction of $170.3 million for public schools and $33 million for higher education in the next budget year, if the 10 percent cuts are applied proportionately to all areas of government.

"Unless Republicans plan on raising taxes, Legislative Research has presented a very likely scenario," Hensley said.

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