Gubernatorial candidates address education issues; debate again Saturday

Democrat Laura Kelly and Independent Greg Orman voiced similar themes when it came to public education during a gubernatorial debate earlier this week, but Republican Kris Kobach spoke in favor of policies opposed by KASB.  

The three candidates will face off again 11 a.m. Saturday during a debate at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. 

On Thursday, they answered questions during a debate sponsored by the Johnson County Bar Association in Overland Park. 

Kobach says he supports a state constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Kansas Supreme Court from considering school finance cases based on adequacy of funding and added he doesn’t believe the Kansas Constitution requires a finding of adequacy in school funding. 

Kobach said the judicial branch has overstepped its authority in school finance. “The judiciary is now, in decision after decision, saying, `No, this amount of money is not enough, spend this amount of money.’ ” 

And he accused the Kansas Supreme Court of “butchering” the portion of the Kansas Constitution that deals with school finance. “It doesn’t say each child gets an adequate or super adequate amount of money,” he said. 

Kelly, a state senator, and Orman, a businessman, oppose such a constitutional amendment. 

KASB believes such an amendment could damage public schools and disrupt the appropriate checks and balances between co-equal branches of government that has served Kansas well. Here is a link to KASB statement against the proposal. 

On the issue of school finance, as a state senator, Kelly voted for the recent five-year, $500 million school funding plan and has said she will work with the Legislature to provide the inflation adjustments that the Kansas Supreme Court has said are needed for adequacy. 

Kelly said additional funding can be provided since the Legislature, with her support, repealed the tax cuts that had been signed into law by former Gov. Sam Brownback.  

“Because we overturned the Brownback tax plan, we now have the funds in the kitty to be able to take care of that in January when we get back in the Legislature,” Kelly said. 

Orman’s lieutenant governor running mate, state Sen. John Doll of Garden City, also voted for the school funding plan that was approved during the 2018 legislative session and Orman has said he will work to provide adequate funding. 

Orman said the key to adequately funding public schools is to help the economy. “If we grow our economy, we’re going to have the ability to provide for public education in a suitable way without increasing taxes,” he said. 

Kelly and Orman have responded to a KASB questionnaire on education issues; here is a link. Kobach has not responded. 

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