With yet another looming court order hanging over Kansas, Republican gubernatorial candidates Tuesday night sparred over whether to provide the state’s schools with hundreds of millions more in funding as the state supreme court ordered last month.
During a televised forum, according to the Associated Press, leading candidates for governor proposed that the state should give schools hundreds of millions more dollars, defy the court order, further crack down on school spending habits or reinstate draconian tax cuts. Other candidates proposed changing the state’s constitution so that the high court can no longer weigh into how the legislature spends its money.
It was another sign that, amid roiling teacher strikes and growing voter sentiment for public schools, Republicans across the nation are at odds over whether they should continue touting tax cuts that could hurt public school spending.
In other states, including Arizona, New York, Oklahoma and Texas, gubernatorial candidates have clashed over how to raise money for schools.
In Kansas, the state supreme court ruled last month in the Gannon v. Kansas ruling that the $548 million increase in public school funding over the next five years is constitutionally not enough. A leading education expert predicted this week that the state will have to provide $364 million more in order to comply with the court’s order.
Tuesday night, Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is running for re-election, appeared to be the most liberal of the candidates when it came to school funding. He defended the $548 million increase he and the legislature provided the state’s public schools this spring and said, if elected, he will work to phase in another estimated $364 million over five years, as the state supreme court last month ordered the legislature to do. He said he would do that using annual growth in tax revenues.
His opponents quickly went on the attack.
“Gov. Colyer signed a bill paying a $500 million ransom, thinking that, that would be enough,” said gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach who also serves as Kansas’ secretary of state. “Look, this game is never going to end.”
Kobach said he would cut taxes and require districts to spend a higher portion of their money on the classroom.
“Kris Kobach doesn’t want to support additional money for schools,” Colyer countered. “I think Kansas schools need that money. Otherwise, his policy will close Kansas schools, particularly our rural schools.”
Kansas’ primary will take place Aug. 7.
A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.