GOP gubernatorial candidate Barnett unveils education proposal

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Barnett has called for a $600 million increase in school funding over the next three years.

Barnett’s comments on school finance were made as he unveiled his education plan that includes increased investment in early childhood development, career training and higher education standards.

Barnett said he believes an annual $200 million increase in K-12 funding for each of the next three years will address the recent ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court that says the state has failed to adequately fund schools.

“We must work together to find the money,” Barnett said.

Barnett said improving the public school system was key to improving the state’s fiscal health, calling education “the driver of the Kansas economy in the 21st century.”

He praised legislators for increasing school funding by $200 million last session, but said more must be done.

On early childhood development, Barnett said he would expand successful local programs statewide.

He also said that while the court has marked school finance as inadequate and inequitable, the court’s reliance on the so-called Rose capacities — general levels of expected student achievement — are outdated and “just not good enough.”

He said he would work to develop new educational standards. Barnett also said he would increase the state’s commitment to career education.

Barnett, a physician, is a former state senator and former school board member. In 2006, he was the Republican nominee for governor, losing to Democrat Kathleen Sebelius. The GOP field for governor this year includes Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, former Reps. Mark Hutton and Ed O’Malley and businessman Wink Hartman, in addition to others.

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