House 21 candidates on the issues: Are schools adequately funded?

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With just a week to go before the August 2 primaries, we’ll be delving into the candidates’ positions on the issues that matter most to Shawnee Mission Post readers. Each day this week we’ll be running responses from Dorothy Hughes and Neil Melton, the two Republicans in the District 21 House of Representatives primary, to questions submitted by Shawnee Mission Post readers. We start today with education funding:

Some groups say Kansas schools are adequately funded while other take the opposite view. What is your position on school funding? Do your views closely align with any particular advocacy group?

Dorothy Hughes

Dorothy_Hughes_16First, our schools are not adequately funded, and we need to support money getting to the classroom. Second, especially here in Johnson County, our districts need to have flexibility to leverage and allocate local resources. I am a strong supporter of our public schools but also of local control. We elect our local school board members, and we should hold them accountable if and when we, as community members and voters, do not agree with their decisions.

Although the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled on equity – whether districts across the state are treated equally by the state’s funding methodology – next they will rule on adequacy. I fully expect their ruling to reflect that funding is inadequate. A new school funding formula will be my top priority and ought to be the top priority of the entire Legislature when we convene in January. We must work together with education professionals including teachers, school boards, and districts, and we must also listen to community input, including families and community members. I am proud to be endorsed by our state’s teachers, Johnson County Educators, and named a ‘top recruit’ by Game On for Kansas Schools.

Neil Melton

Neil_melton_16Education funding is a top priority for me. Top-notch public schools are one of the cornerstones that Johnson County was built on. In 2017 we will have to come up with a new funding formula, and I will fight to make sure it is better for Johnson County than the last one. Currently the majority of our funding in Johnson County comes from local property tax dollars vs. state dollars, while most districts in the state are primarily funded with state dollars vs. local property tax dollars. We need an adequate and reliable funding stream from the state, but local school districts should be able to fund without state imposed limits to whatever level the local patrons of that school district support. There are reasons why some live in Johnson County, and there are reasons why people choose to live in other parts of the state. State of the art buildings are great, but that’s not what is going to make or break a student’s learning experience, however if that’s what the community desires, they should have that right to fund those and other initiatives with their local tax dollars. I disagree with the status quo of state-imposed limitations on what you can do in your own district because it’s not “fair” to another district.

Total spending per pupil is over $13,000 in Kansas when you consider all sources. Is this an adequate amount? I know there are legitimate concerns about spending priorities within the overall K-12 budget. In some aspects of K-12 we probably should be spending more, and in other areas I would argue, we are not spending money efficiently. Let me be clear, I want quality education for all students, but I don’t believe we need 285 school districts to deliver quality education. We have to be more innovative. I will stand against tax increases on
Johnson County families, that will redistribute more money to Western Kansas. There is potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of savings through administrative consolidation that could be reinvested into targeted classroom spending, or given back to other areas of the state budget. Education is absolutely critical to our future. It takes money, but how money is spent is what is most important. The freedom for our community to support our educational interests is something I will be a staunch advocate for.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to the second questionnaire item:

Who did you vote for in the 2014 Kansas governor’s race and why?