DALLAS – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback urged lawmakers to provide an additional $600 million for public schools to resolve a state Supreme Court ruling that current funding is inadequate.
In his final State of the State address to the Kansas Legislature Tuesday, Brownback did not specify where the money would come from but said he did not support a tax increase.
“This multi-year approach will provide the time necessary for school districts to plan and spend this additional money more effectively,” Brownback said. “My proposal does not include a tax increase.”
Overriding Brownback’s veto, the 2017 Legislature voted to raise the state income tax by $1.2 billion over two years. The tax measure, coming after years of revenue shortfalls, was seen as a rejection of Brownback’s plan to steadily reduce and eventually eliminate the state income tax.
The milestone tax vote came in a legislature shaken up by a 2016 Republican primary election that booted many of Brownback’s allies.
After Brownback’s Tuesday night speech, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, told the Topeka Capital Journal that he was “really pissed off” by the latest proposal.
“I worked hard to get the budget in balance,” Denning said. “We did all the heavy lifting last year without any of his help. In fact, he blocked us on every path, and now he’s just putting the screws to us for next year. That must be his parting gift to us for overturning his tax policy.”
President Trump last year named Brownback as “Ambassador for Religious Freedom,” but the Senate failed to take up the appointment. Trump reappointed Brownback this year and he is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Brownback expected to have left the governorship by now remain in office until the appointment was confirmed.
The governor’s speech was laden with memories of his years as the state’s governor and previously in the U.S. Senate.
In his proposal for the $600 million funding boost, Brownback set goals for the public schools, including higher teacher pay and greater attention to impoverished or disabled students. But he said money alone was not enough.
“Six hundred million dollars is a very significant investment,” Brownback said. “And Kansans expect to see students in every school in our state thrive and achieve, particularly our students who the court cited as being inadequately served under our current funding.”
“Money by itself will not solve the problem,” he said. “For the best illustration of this, one need look no further than the Kansas City, Mo., school district, sometimes called America’s most costly educational failure.”
“Federal courts supercharged the district with nearly $2 billion in a little more than a decade,” he noted. “When it was all spent, there was little to show in academic improvement – test scores were stagnant, achievement gaps remained, and the dropout rate actually went up. We must learn from this history.”