To be fair to Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly, “there’s little getting around a need to spend more” is a paraphrase from an article by Stephen Koranda of Kansas Public Radio, not a direct quote.

To keep the education lobby happy Kelly has chosen not to notice a $3.7 billion budget shortfall.

That said, Koranda seems to capture the gist of Kelly’s take on school spending. Indeed, Koranda’s summary of Kelly’s position falls under the heading, “Cash is king.”

As Koranda reports, Kelly claims that strong schools drew her family to Kansas but–again a paraphrase–that “schools suffered and didn’t see enough investment after the 2012 tax cuts pushed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.” As the chart below shows, however, that claim of suffering schools is simply not true.

Prodigal spending has led to a perilous shortfall.

Per pupil funding for public schools grew steadily during the Brownback years. In the eight years of the Brownback administration, the state contribution per pupil increased from $6511 in 2011 to an estimated $9113 in 2018, a 40 percent increase, more than twice the rate of inflation during that period.

“Some estimates show Kansas might be facing tight finances again in the coming years,” Koranda reports, “but Kelly said reversing the tax cuts means Kansas can afford to spend on schools and invest in early childhood programs.” The link is to a June 2017 article by Koranda headlined, “Kansas Lawmakers Override Brownback’s Veto and Roll Back 2012 Tax Cuts.”

Kornada seems to understand something Kelly does not. Even after the tax cuts have been reversed, “Kansas might be facing tight finances.” There is no “might” about it. Kansas is facing a projected $3.7 billion revenue shortfall over the next four years.

As the Sentinel reported last week, The $3.7 billion is not a scare figure. It represents the calculations made by the Kansas Legislative Research Department and publicized by the Kansas Policy Institute. Although his article is surprisingly balanced, Koranda cannot bring himself to mention the Kansas Policy Institute by name. He refers to it only as a “right-leaning Kansas think tank.” It is also the only source cited modified by an ideological label.

Her failure to address Kansas’s projected $3.7 billion revenue shortfall marks Laura Kelly as a mute captive of the education lobby without whose support she has no chance of winning in November.

 

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