July 21, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Topeka Paper Labels Mathematic Reality “Strategic Spin”

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The Topeka Capital-Journal takes a mathematical reality through the spin cycle in a Dec. 25 news story, entitled “K-12 funding advocates in Kansas not fans of GOP’s 18 percent solution.”

The fallacies start in the headline with the subtle suggestion that anyone who supports funding K-12 schools also supports increasing existing public school funding levels. Funding to Kansas schools set a new record in 2017. Total aid to schools ballooned to $6.084 billion with the state kicking in $4 billion. Per pupil, schools received $13,236 in funding, including $8,714 from the state.

Lawmakers adopted a financing formula that injected another $300 million into public schools last summer, but the Kansas Supreme Court determined the new financing scheme unconstitutional. Despite recent funding gains, a group of school districts suing the state insists schools need $893 million more than they received in 2016, or about $600 million more next year. That’s the minimum number according to a court briefing filed by the attorney representing schools suing the state, Alan Rupe.

An interim committee of lawmakers examined ways to appease the court earlier this month. Their research suggests adding $600 million to schools would require cuts of up to 18 percent for all other parts of the general fund or significant tax increases.

Initially, Rupe told the Wichita Eagle that if cuts to higher education, prisons, public safety, and mental health services are necessary, so be it.

“It may be that some of those areas you mention which are terribly important but don’t have constitutional protections may have to suffer,” Rupe told the Wichita Eagle.

He and the Topeka Capital-Journal are singing a different tune now. The Cap-J called the 18-percent mathematical truth a “GOP…solution,” “a prominent GOP talking point,” “strategic spin” and “a political objective.”

The Topeka paper is unwilling to fairly air the dirty laundry of the potential of 18 percent cuts. Instead, the paper ran the facts through an attorney spin cycle in an editorial disguised as news.

Rupe told the Journal that cutting the budget doesn’t work.

“K-12 and higher education are not Republicans or Democrats. Pitting those groups against each other will not be successful, because they all have the same interest at heart,” Rupe told the Topeka daily.

Lawmakers didn’t ask to pit those groups against each other, however. Continuous school funding lawsuits have. Now there’s limited appetite to raise taxes after taxpayers were asked to shoulder an additional $1.2 billion in taxes last year.

The 18 percent cut is a mathematical reality–not a talking point. Balancing the state budget while adding $600 million in new funding would require cutting other departments by 18 percent or significantly increasing taxes, but the Topeka paper is unwilling to air that dirty laundry accurately. Instead, the paper ran the facts through an attorney spin cycle in an editorial disguised as news.

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