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State Journal: Not worth fighting; Board building bashed

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When he was running for Governor of Louisiana last fall, Edwin W. Edwards had the support of the state's teachers' unions against the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Heading into next month's elections, however, Mr. Edwards and the unions find themselves on opposite sides over a proposed constitutional amendment on the budget.

The Governor, who backs the proposal, has told the unions in blunt terms to find something better to do with their energies than opposing the plan.

At issue is a provision making it easier to dip into the state's elementary and secondary education and other trust funds during a fiscal crisis.

Backers say the amendment would allow needed budget cuts to be distributed across the whole range of state programs. But critics argue that K-12 education should not be exposed to reductions.

"My suggestion to [the teachers' unions] is that it's a fight not worth fighting,'' the Governor told reporters recently.

"I would suggest to the teachers, who are my friends and supporters, that this is a fight they need not engage in and it's not going to accomplish the purpose they're seeking,'' he continued. "What they need to do is to work with us to try to get some help from reluctant legislators.''

When they created a radically new education-finance system earlier this year, most members of the Kansas legislature probably did not foresee that one result of the new state money they were pumping into the schools would be the purchase of a Topeka office building.

Now that the Kansas Association of School Boards is indirectly using some of that new money to buy an expanded facility in the state capital, though, some lawmakers are not happy.

Officials of the school boards group recently purchased a $2.8 million building to replace three smaller facilities. The money will come in part from raising charges for the services they provide to local districts, many of which got additional state money as a result of the finance law.

"The legislature's intent was that any new money would be targeted for programs that help kids learn,'' Sen. Dave Kerr told a local reporter. "I'd say that's in question if the money is being used to buy a building for the school boards association.''

"It's just another indication of how the system is out of control,'' Rep. Tom Bishop was quoted as saying.

K.A.S.B. officials say that plans to buy a building were under way before the reform law passed, and that the new facility will enable them to provide better services to members. --èŸäŸ

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