Trying to gain the upper hand in the debate over education, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Monday criticized his Democratic challenger, Paul Davis, for opposing a law this year that put more money into schools.
Brownback said the legislation not only put $129 million more into education, but gave Johnson County schools long-sought ability to further raise local property taxes to help fund the classroom.
“He voted against money going to education,” Brownback said of Davis. “That is something that is wrong. It is wrong for the state. It is wrong for Johnson County. I don’t think he should have voted that way.”
Brownback’s comments followed an event at Antioch Park in Merriam, where he announced new goals for education if he is re-elected.
Davis quickly deflected Brownback’s claim. He said that this year he supported a variation of a bill that would have increased education funding and given school boards more local taxing authority.
Davis said he couldn’t support the final version of the bill because it tied new school funding to a measure eliminating some job-protection rights for teachers.
“I didn’t support the final bill because Governor Brownback and his allies decided to take a cheap shot at 35,000 Kansas public school teachers,” Davis said.
Davis said that many moderate Republican lawmakers, including a bloc from Johnson County, opposed the school bill for the same reasons.
Davis, the state representative from Lawrence, said he always has been an ardent supporter of schools.
The Brownback campaign has criticized Davis for supporting tax increases early in his legislative career that would have benefited schools.
Two years ago, Davis called for using $90 million in state surplus revenue to increase funding for schools. The proposal died in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
The Legislature approved more money for education this year in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that found a funding disparity between rich and poor Kansas schools brought about by state budget cuts since 2010.
The school bill was controversial because it coupled more school funding with several new policies, including one that eliminated special appeals rights for teachers when they are fired.
Brownback defended the decision to eliminate appeals hearings for teachers who have been on the job for more than three years. Brownback said that while state law no longer requires the hearings, local districts can provide an appeals process.
“Local school districts can decide whether to provide tenure or not to provide tenure,” he said. “To me, that’s about local control. Let you decide.”