Brownback Administration on Kansas school funding

From Melika Willoughby, Deputy Communications Director for Governor Sam Brownback, the administration’s views on school funding in Kansas.

Fellow Kansans,

Kansas children across the state returned to school this month. Editorial boards and union leaders would have you believe the schools are starving due to lack of funding. Reality shatters this false narrative.

Kansas-Capitol-2015-02-02-14.28.12-HDR[1]Despite all of the bombastic talk, Kansas schools are well funded. Elementary students in Tonganoxie filled the halls of a new state-of-the-art facility featuring three music rooms, two gyms, an abundance of classrooms. High schoolers in Osage County will perform in a new fine arts facility this year, housing a theater to seat 500 audience members. Shawnee Mission broke ground this week on the first of six new buildings, and freshmen at Wichita’s Southeast High School will graduate in four years from a beautiful new high school.

The innovative spirit and passion of Kansas teachers make our schools among the best in the country. Their dedication deserves recognition. Along with others districts, Auburn-Washburn, Fairfield, and Topeka were each able to increase teacher pay. One-to-one technology initiatives are also helping teachers prepare our students for the 21st century workforce with ease—Girard with iPads and McPherson with Chromebooks.

Governor Brownback’s block grant funding that provided an historic $4 billion to Kansas schools gave districts the freedom to decide what investments would best serve their students. The block grant also established a new recourse of action for districts facing unexpected challenges. Just this week the State Finance Council, headed by Governor Brownback, gave more than $6 million in additional funding to districts statewide. Each of the 22 districts applying because of decreased property valuation (primarily resulting from lower oil and gas prices across the nation) received additional funding. Under the old, broken formula, districts would not have received immediate extra state funding. Thirteen districts applying due to enrollment increases also received immediate additional funding.

Kansas students are back in classrooms prepared to learn, and our districts have the resources they need to teach them.

Melika Willoughby
Deputy Communications Director
Office of Governor Sam Brownback

Bradford: Education funding in Kansas

From Kansas Representative John Bradford, a legislator’s perspective on education funding in Kansas this year. Bradford represents district 40 in Leavenworth County, covering parts of Lansing and Leavenworth, and part of Delaware Township.

Education Funding Policy

A lot of attention has been focused on Education since the 2015 Kansas Legislative Session came to an end. I hope the following information will help to clarify this issues regarding education spending.

Kansas LegislatureThe debate over school funding in the last five years hinges on one event – the temporary infusion of more than $277 million of ARRA money (federal “stimulus” dollars), into school district budgets.
The federal dollars were intended to bolster budgets as states nationwide struggled with declining revenue during the 2008 recession.

In FY 2010 (the 2009-2010 school year) alone, ARRA put more than $224 million into “state fiscal stabilization funds” for K-12. The next school year saw another $52 million infused into that fund. In other words, new federal dollars not only replaced state spending, but increased the amount Kansas had been putting into schools.

With this short-term spike in new money, school districts initiated new long-term projects and hiring.
By the next year, FY 12, that federal money was gone. But because the huge influx of federal dollars was not completely replaced by state dollars after the federal money went away, a new narrative about “the biggest cut in education history” emerged.

Despite efforts by Republican lawmakers to funnel money to classrooms and ensure that districts have the flexibility to prioritize spending and give students the resources they need to succeed, special interest groups like the KNEA and KASB continued to push the narrative that school funding has been slashed and the future of public education is in jeopardy, simply because federal dollars were not entirely replaced with state funds.

This is at the same time that state funding for schools has reached an all-time high – over $4 billion per year. That figure includes new money for teacher pensions, which is a key force in attracting quality educators, as noted by the Kansas Supreme Court. But recently, there’s been a new shift in the narrative, at least from one source. Mark Tallman of the KASB recently admitted on his blog that “it’s true that from the viewpoint of total dollars, funding for Kansas schools is rising.” Even though that’s the case, he says, schools are suffering because general state aid is not rising fast enough to keep up with inflation and enrollment.

However, Tallman falls to address the fact that over the last ten years, while there have been 1,992 classroom teachers added to schools, the number of non-teaching personal, such as administrators, supervisors, and specialists have grown by 2,493, according to data from the Kansas Department of Administration. During the same time period, the number of students enrolled in Kansas schools grew by less than 20,000. This works out to one new non-teaching staff member for every eight new students.

It’s worth examining why there was so much growth in administrative positions over classroom positions. More specifically, why is there a need for 87 more assistant principals than there was 10 years ago?

Kansas has always been a state where local control over schools reigns supreme. Lawmakers believe that local boards of education are in the best position to ensure schools educate students effectively. However, the other side of the coin is accountability for taxpayers. Schools do not exist to provide jobs, or to stimulate the local economy. They exist to educate children. The money to do so should not be tied up in administrative overhead, marketing (such as radio ads that have popped up in recent weeks advertising new classes), or inefficient programs.

This is where the new school finance formula comes into play. Lawmakers have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the system for education and education accountability in Kansas. The new way of funding education in Kansas should not only be designed to ensure that students are wholly prepared to succeed immediately after graduation, but also that parents and lawmakers alike can clearly see how money is being directed and used to educate students.

Accountability and local flexibility are not mutually exclusive. The new way of funding Kansas education should include a uniform accounting system that tracks spending in identical methods across school districts statewide. Such a system wouldn’t restrict operating funds; it would just make it easier for the general public and policy-makers to see how tax dollars are being used in their local district.

Kansas schools were recently ranked 12th in the nation by Wallethub.com. While these kinds of surveys are not exactly scientific studies, they reinforce a fact that many Kansans already know: our schools are excellent. But, that doesn’t mean we stop trying to improve them by using all resources and exploring all of our options. Our students will be the ones who benefit, and they deserve every opportunity we can give them.

Sincerely,

John Bradford
Kansas State Representative, District 40
913-683-0871
JBrad125@gmail.com

The Conservatarian Manifesto

From The Cato Institute:

Are libertarians and conservatives just variations of the same ideological species, or do they represent unique and separate philosophical traditions? With the 2016 election season already underway, decide for yourself whether conservatives and libertarians should work closely to advance their common goals.

View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Free speech important to political minorities

From Learn Liberty:

When people call for censorship they often argue that offensive speech is harmful to the vulnerable and oppressed, but the reality is that a system ​of ​robust uninhibited free speech is actually ​an oppressed person​’s​ strongest weapon.

Oppressed and marginalized minorities by definition have little political power. Powerful majorities that are allowed to implement restrictions on speech will inevitably do so in a way that guards the status quo from descent and disruption.

This is why our founders considered the right to free speech so important that they purposely took that power away. Granting majorities the authority to determine when speech​ i​s harmful ​and when to censor it, only invites ​further o​oppression. ​

View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

Pompeo to Kerry: Brief Congress on Secret Iran Nuclear Deals

Mike Pompeo official photograph“The fact that Congress and the American public are just now learning that Iran will be performing its own inspections at Parchin, over a month after the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran, raises an obvious question: ‘What else don’t we know?'” From the office of U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district.

August 20, 2015

Pompeo to Kerry: Brief Congress on Secret Iran Nuclear Deals

The fact Congress and Americans are just learning Iran will be conducting its own nuclear inspections begs the question: “What else don’t we know?”

WICHITA – Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) today sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, calling on Kerry to brief Congress on the two secret side agreements to the Iranian nuclear agreement and to clarify the level of knowledge that Obama administration officials have on the contents of these deals. Pompeo writes this letter to Kerry in response to yesterday’s report from The Associated Press (AP) that Iran will be allowed to perform its own inspections on its most secretive nuclear facility — the Parchin military complex — under the secret side deals made between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran.

The full text of the letter is attached and below:

August 20, 2015

The Honorable John Kerry
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Secretary Kerry:

Yesterday, the Associated Press (AP) reported that Iran will be allowed to conduct its own inspections of the Parchin nuclear site as part of the secret side deal reached between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran.  Specifically, the AP reported that “the agreement diverges from normal inspection procedures between the IAEA and a member country by essentially ceding the agency’s investigative authority to Iran.  It allows Tehran to employ its own experts and equipment in the search for evidence for activities that it has consistently denied – trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

These reports are based on a review of the text of the agreement, labeled “separate arrangement II.”  It is worth noting that while the AP has reviewed these documents, no member of Congress or the public has had that same opportunity.

Given this development, I would request your response to the following questions at your earliest possible convenience.

1)      On July 24, I, along with Senator Cotton, sent you a letter accepting an offer you made during your July 22 briefing to members of Congress on the nuclear agreement with Iran.  I requested that briefing occur the week of July 27.

I received a response in the form of a letter dated August 11 from Julia Frifield, Assistant Secretary of Legislative Affairs.  The letter stated, in part, that “the level of engagement with Congress that we have maintained on this nuclear deal has been unprecedented and we look forward to continuing our close consultations.”

To date, I have not been a part of any briefing that disclosed that Iran would be performing their own inspections at Parchin.  I would request, once again, a complete briefing on the contents of the two separate side agreements.

2)      On July 22, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said this about the separate side agreements: “We know their contents and we’re satisfied with them.  We will share contents of those briefings in full in a classified session with Congress.  So there’s nothing in that regard that we know that they won’t know.”

  • Was anyone in the administration aware that under these agreements, Iran would be permitted to perform its own inspections at Parchin?  If so, when was that important fact shared with Congress?
  • If the administration was not aware of this provision, why was Secretary Rice so confident that the administration knows the contents of the separate side agreements?

The fact that Congress and the American public are just now learning that Iran will be performing its own inspections at Parchin, over a month after the completion of the nuclear deal with Iran, raises an obvious question: “What else don’t we know?”

It is unacceptable that the American people are learning such critical information about this deal from the press.  This new development illustrates, once again, that it is absolutely crucial that Congress is able to review the text of these side agreements.  I look forward to your prompt response to these questions and stand ready to assist in scheduling a briefing on these side deals as soon as possible.

 

The use of regulation by business, contrary to markets

There are many examples of how the conventional wisdom regarding regulation is wrong: Republicans and conservatives are in bed with government, seeking to unshackle business from the burden of government regulation. Democrats and liberals, on the other hand, are busy crafting regulations to protect the common man from the evils of big business. As it turns out, both Democrats and Republicans love creating regulations, and big business loves these regulations.

For example, in 2005 Walmart came out in favor of raising the national minimum wage. The company’s CEO said that he was concerned for the plight of working families, and that he thought the minimum wage level of $5.15 per hour was too low. If Walmart — a company the political left loves to hate as much as any other — can be in favor of increased regulation of the workplace, can regulation be a good thing? Had Walmart discovered the joys of big government?

The answer is yes. Walmart discovered a way of using government regulation as a competitive weapon. This is often the motivation for business support of regulation. In the case of Walmart, it was already paying its employees well over the current minimum wage. At the time, some sources thought that the minimum wage could be raised as much as 50 percent and not cause Walmart any additional cost — its employees already made that much.

But its competitors didn’t pay wages that high. If the minimum wage rose very much, these competitors to Walmart would be forced to increase their wages. Their costs would rise. Their ability to compete with Walmart would be harmed.

In short, Walmart supported government regulation as a way to impose higher costs on its competitors. It found a way to compete outside the marketplace. It abandoned principles of free markets and capitalism, and provided a lesson as to the difference between capitalism and business. Many, particularly liberals, make no distinction between business and capitalism. But we need to learn to recognize the difference if we are to have a thriving economy based on free-wheeling, competitive markets that foster innovation, or continue our decline into unproductive crony capitalism.

In the following excerpt from his book The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, author Timothy P. Carney explains that big business is able to use regulation as a blunt and powerful tool against competitors, and also as a way to improve its image.

How does regulation help big business?

Excerpt from The Big Ripoff: How Big Business and Big Government Steal Your Money, by Timothy P. Carney

If regulation is costly, why would big business favor it? Precisely because it is costly.

Regulation adds to the basic cost of doing business, thus heightening barriers to entry and reducing the number of competitors. Thinning out the competition allows surviving firms to charge higher prices to customers and demand lower prices from suppliers. Overall regulation adds to overhead and is a net boon to those who can afford it — big business.

Put another way, regulation can stultify the market. If you’re already at the top, stultification is better than the robust dynamism of the free market. And according to Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman:

The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.

There is an additional systemic reason why regulation will help big business. Congress passes the laws that order new regulations, and executive branch agencies actually construct the regulations. The politicians and government lawyers who write these rules rarely do so without input. Often the rule makers ask for advice and information from labor unions, consumer groups, environmental groups, and industry itself. Among industry the stakeholders (beltway parlance to describe affected parties) who have the most input are those who can hire the most effective and most connective lobbyists. You can guess this isn’t Mom and Pop.

As a result, the details of the regulation are often carefully crafted to benefit, or at least not hurt, big business. If something does not hurt you, or hurts you a little while seriously hindering your competition, it is a boon, on balance.

Another reason big business often cries “regulate me!” is the goodwill factor. If a politician or bureaucrat wants to play a role in some industry, and some executive says, “get lost,” he runs the risk of offending this powerful person. That’s bad diplomacy. Bureaucrats, by their nature, do not like to be told to mind their own business. Supporting the idea of regulation but lobbying for particular details is usually better politics.

Kansas school funding under block grants

This contradicts what we’ve been told by the school spending establishment:

“It’s true, Dennis said, that state funding levels under the block grants are ‘very similar’ to state funding a year ago, even when separating out the state funds dedicated to the teachers’ retirement system.”

“Dennis” is Dale Dennis, Kansas’ deputy commissioner of education, often said to be the only person in Kansas who understands the school finance formula.

For more, see the Kansas City Star article From big Olathe to tiny Ness City, Kansas schools struggle with new block grant funding.

Rep. Mike Pompeo on Iran nuclear deal

Today, U.S. Representative Mike Pompeo, a Republican who represents the Kansas fourth district, appeared on the C-SPAN program Washington Journal to talk about the Iran nuclear deal. View video below, or click here to view at C-SPAN. Following the video is a press release from his office.

July 14, 2015
Contact: Heather Denker
(316) 262-8992 (Office)
(316) 641-7844 (Mobile)

Pompeo: Iran Nuclear Deal –- The More We Know, the Worse it Gets

Details on deal show how bad this deal really is

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) today released the following statement on an agreement reached between the United States and Iran that will allow Iran to develop a nuclear arsenal:

“Iran is a true threat against the U.S. and peace and stability in the region. Unfortunately, President Obama and Secretary Kerry – now with the support of former Secretary Clinton – have chosen to ignore this real and serious threat and settle for a bad deal that puts Americans at increased risk from Iranian terror. The more that Congress and the American people learn about what’s in this agreement, the more they will realize the disastrous impact this will have on our nation’s security and demand we reject this deal that provides dramatic sanction relief, dismantles the arms embargo, and funds the development of a nuclear weapon for the largest state-sponsor of terror in the world.

“President Obama could have secured a deal that actually stopped Iranian nuclear weapon development, but he failed to do so. Now is the time for the U.S. Congress to step-up and kill this deal. We have to go back to the negotiating table and secure a good deal for the American people and global security.”

The following are some of the problems that would result from this agreement:

  • Sanctions lifted provide life-line to Iranian regime. With sanction relief provided to Iran nearly immediately after the deal is signed, Iran will get access to around $100 billion in frozen assets and access to world markets to rebuild its economy. Additionally, specific and dangerous individuals will be removed from the sanctions list, including the commander of the IRGC Quds force, General Qassem Soleimani. The Quds force has been responsible for the murder of American servicemen and women. With the Iranian economy on the brink of collapse, which could have decimated the Iranian regime, this deal throws the Mullahs a lifeline.
  • Allows Iran to continue nuclear weapon development. In exchange for sanction relief, Iran gets to continue to build its nuclear weapons program.  Even if the Iranians actually abide by the agreement – let us not forget they already violated the interim agreement – this deal does not stop the Iranians from enriching uranium, building more advanced centrifuges (which will shorten the break-out time for nuclear weapons development), and developing more advanced ballistic missile technologies.
  • Doesn’t stop Iranian terrorist attacks. This agreement places no conditions on Iran’s terrorist activities around the world, including against our own military men and women. In fact, the sanctions relief will provide the regime with billions of dollars to fund additional terrorist activities.
  • Lifts the Missile and Arms Embargo. While the conventional arms embargo is slated to last five years and the ballistic missile embargo to last eight, the deal allows the embargo to be lifted much sooner with the a simple approval from an international organization (the IAEA).
  • Verification is too weak. The verification process outlined in the agreement fails several key tests. First, the IAEA only has access to declared nuclear facilities, meaning it does not have access to military or suspected sites.If the Iranians are going to continue to their nuclear weapons program, they will likely do it at the sites not inspected by the IAEA.  This verification is destined to fail.
  • Fails to secure the release of any of the four American hostages.

Quick Takes from Voice for Liberty: Individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas.