Yael T. Abouhalkah

Hypocritical Kansas GOP lawmakers tell public schools how to beg for more money

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was flanked by House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle during his 2013 State of the State address.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was flanked by House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle during his 2013 State of the State address. The Kansas City Star

Give four leading GOP Kansas lawmakers this much: They’ve got a lot of gall trying to shame public schools that are asking for a little bit more in tax funds.

After the Republican-controlled Kansas Legislature spent an extra $1 million in tax money to finish its session, the four members on Wednesday thought it was all right to imply that K-12 schools aren’t being efficient with public dollars.

In a letter, the four — House Speaker Ray Merrick of Stilwell; Senate President Susan Wagle of Wichita; and the chairmen of the Legislature’s two budget committees, Sen. Ty Masterson of Andover and Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr. of Olathe — asked some superintendents to say how they have “used efficiencies to improve outcomes in the classroom.”

The lawmakers have some weight to throw around.

A total of 38 districts want a piece of the $12.3 million set aside for “extraordinary needs” of schools this year. That includes the Olathe and Kansas City, Kan., districts.

And because $15 million has been requested, someone has to draw the line somewhere on who’s going to get that money.

Next week, Gov. Sam Brownback and eight leaders of the Legislature will make that decision.

“Specifically, please provide five ways that your school district has increased efficiencies especially those that have led to better outcomes in the classroom over the past three years,” the letter said.

Wait a minute.

These four are among the lawmakers who have refused to put in place any kind of evaluation of how “efficiently” several hundred thousand businesses are using millions of dollars in income tax breaks they are getting, courtesy of Brownback and Co.

In fact, Kansas schools are being harmed by the great revenue shortfall that has resulted from these income tax breaks — even while it’s clear the cuts have not created a large number of jobs and tax revenue, as Brownback promised in 2012.

GOP legislators are the last people in the world who ought to be demanding that others show they are being “efficient” with the public dollars they get.

To reach editorial page columnist Yael T. Abouhalkah, call 816-234-4887 or send email to abouhalkah@kcstar.com. Twitter @YaelTAbouhalkah.

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