May 21, 2009

Education Lobby in Kansas

Rep. Mike Kiegerl of Kansas identifies a problem that has bothered me for almost 50 years--the huge political power that State education lobbies have gathered and impose on state budgets. Education lobbyists necessarily rob other state budgets that provide critical and necessary services. This high-powered lobby yearly demands more and more money while children receive poorer and poorer education in public schools--resulting in more and more parents homeschooling their children.

This year, even the education lobbyists didn't get all they wanted, but they took a far less severe cut than other agencies. For perspective, Kansas schools as a whole spent $12,188 per student during the 2007-08 year. A cut of $116 per student amounts to less than a 1 percent drop, while other agencies averaged cuts over 5 percent.

Here's Kiegerl's comments on how the education lobby influenced the Kansas budget.

It is no exaggeration to say that this [KS] budget is the result of the activities of the strongest lobby in Topeka. There are 42 lobbyists in the “education” lobby. They resist any attempt to make the changes needed for a high quality globally competitive education system.

The only answer these folk have to anything related to education is more money. In the past, when we were taking in more revenues than expected, they got what they asked for. I voted for the largest single increase of over $1 billion four years ago. Now that we don’t have the excess money, the reaction is unreasonable. Their efforts are “cut everybody else but not us.” Never mind the requirements for public safety, the disabled, the poor foster children, the elderly, etc, throw them under the bus!

They succeeded to gather the necessary votes to get their budget. They were no help in saving the taxpayers any money. ... Sad to say they have only postponed the inevitable. When the Federal funds run out in 2011, the shortfall will be huge and the required cut backs enormous.

Consequently, other Kansas state entities had to significantly sacrifice their funding, including (1) loss of $25 million slider payments to cities and the county; (2) loss of $25 million from the state highway fund because these funds had to be transferred to the general fund; (3) a reduction of $8.5 million for public safety; and (4) insufficient funds for the educationally and developmentally disabled and children on the waiting list for services they are entitled to receive. Kansas also will need to institute a $70 million tax increase.