Are those who question or oppose the need for additional spending on Kansas schools opposed to education? Melinda Fritze, who is chair of the Andover Parent Legislative Council, says so. A recent email from her started like this:
Friends of Andover Schools,
The Legislature went back into session yesterday and the outcome of the state budget and school finance is still very much an unknown. The anti-education voices are strong and extremely well funded. These anti-education groups focus on the increases to school spending in Kansas since 2005.
In three sentences she manages to use the term “anti-education” twice.
One of the problems we have is that public school spending proponents are not able to distinguish between “education” and “government schools.” Lots of education happens outside the public school system. And let’s be clear: they are government schools, funded and regulated by government.
The government schools have also morphed into a government jobs program, with public-sector union organizers proud of their efforts in recruiting spending supporters to legislative forums. The fact that a union organizer would crow about this to the Wichita school board is evidence of this.
Fritze’s email talks about the “extremely well-funded” opponents of higher school spending. That’s quite ironic, as the opponents consist of a few individuals and two think tanks with a handful of employees each. The school spending lobby, usually considered the most powerful of all special interest groups at the Kansas Capitol, is able to employ several lobbyists who work full-time to increase school spending. The lobby has millions at its disposal, some of it provided by taxpayers.
The school spending lobby — composed primarily of Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA, the teachers union) and Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) — will never be satisfied, either, as the following story shows:
So the rumors of school funding wars persist, with legislators and taxpayers asking “how much is enough?” and schools pressing for more money with no real end in sight. Speaker Pro Tem Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) shared with me a conversation he had with Mark Tallman, Assistant Executive Director/Advocacy for the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB), which illuminates the dynamics at play:
Early last session Mark Tallman and I engaged in a conversation about the budget and school spending. During the conversation the difficulty of increasing school spending as ‘required’ by Montoy was juxtaposed against the need to cut school spending by the same percentage as other portions of the State budget. During our discussion I asked Mr. Tallman if we (the State) had the ability to give the schools everything he asked for would he still ask for even more money for schools. His answer was, “Of course, that’s my job.”