While we wait and speculate about the actions the Kansas Legislature will take this session, the first, concrete bit of action has come our way. Numerous school districts in the state have sent out mail-in ballots regarding school funding.
They are asking to keep local option budget taxes at the level they are right now. Taxes were increased last year by the KS Legislature, and this vote will not raise them further.
We urge our members and friends to vote YES to keep the LOB intact.
But we're angry that Kansas taxpayers have been forced into this position. Let us explain.
At the end of the last Legislative Session, the education budget was in turmoil. Extremists were eager to slash budgets and policies, but the KS Supreme Court stepped in with part of its ruling on the constitutionality of the state's school finance practices. The court required that the state equalize funding across the all school districts. Practically, that meant increasing the amount of funding. Stymied in their budget-burning, the Legislature's most conservative deigned to allow school districts to raise more funds from their local constituents. Calling it "increased funding" they passed the cost on to taxpayers.
The districts, naturally, took what they could get. Remember, we are at 2008 levels of funding here.
Now, the poison pill is turning. The Legislature added a provision that this increase (the one they took such credit for) would only last one year. If districts wanted to keep these new funds, they would have to put it to a vote of the taxpayers.
In other words, the extremists in the KS Legislature were forced to raise school funding per the Constitution, but are so anti-public schools that they arranged to have it taken away just one year later. What if the districts can't convince taxpayers to keep the funding intact? Well, that is certainly not the lawmakers' fault, is it?
The right answer, of course, is the one MainStream and our coalition of partners, level-headed legislators, and voters from both sides of the aisle have always supported: common sense revenue policies that guarantee a well funded government at the expense of no one segment of Kansas society. It's not hard when you have the well being of all Kansans at heart. But this view isn't shared by Governor Brownback and his cronies in power.
This time, they have pinned us against the wall. Vote YES on the LOB, because our public schools are weakening under this constant onslaught of irresponsible revenue slashing.