Spending time with family and friends over the holidays is a time honored Kansas tradition. It’s a chance to come together, celebrate the season and share great food. Homemade pie is always a favorite at our houses. But, when one member of the family continually takes more than his fair share of the pie, forcing others to go without, even the most patient family members have to speak up.
We’ve seen the same thing happen over and over again in Topeka. For decades, lawyers have entangled our school districts in lawsuit after lawsuit seeking more funding. Each time, taxpayers pay more, yet wind up with less for other essential priorities. Under the latest ruling, school districts are at the front of the line again, seeking 60 percent of state taxpayers’ pie while other priorities for our families – like job training, roads, healthcare and foster care – continue to lose.
In fact, Alan Rupe, the Wichita lawyer paid to represent school districts in the court case, recently told The Wichita Eagle that other programs “may have to suffer” so that schools receive more money.
Make no mistake: education should be – and is – a top priority for our state. That’s why more than half of the state budget is directed to K-12 education. But, our families and our economy shouldn’t continually get the short end of the stick. The truth is our families rely on an infrastructure that includes more than schools. If we want our kids to be able to achieve their fullest potential, that infrastructure also has to include good-paying jobs so our kids can grow up and raise their families here, viable roads so that economic opportunities won’t bypass our state, safe bridges so our farmers and ranchers can go from harvest to market, access to healthcare so our families and seniors can get the care they need, and reliable services for children in need so that no Kansas child goes hungry or without a home.
According to Kansas Fiscal Facts produced by the Kansas Legislative Research Department, the current state budget directs $3.4 Billion to school districts, an increase of 9.5 percent in education spending over the prior year. But, the lawyers say that’s still not enough. At the same time, nearly every other priority in the state has been cut in order to meet the lawyers’ demands, including veterans’ affairs, healthcare, law enforcement and corrections, our colleges and universities, agriculture, and our roads.
It’s time for a more balanced approach. Legislators have a duty to support the essential priorities that protect our families and move our economy forward instead of being forced to the sidelines while one priority continually moves to the front of the line. Unlike the lawyers who think some families have to suffer, Kansans know the value of sharing the pie so that all essential priorities can be funded. Just like in our own homes, one member of the family shouldn’t keep taking more of the pie at everyone else’s expense.
Kelly Briggs, President
Kansas Contractors Association
Jake Lauer, President
Kansas Aggregate Producers Association
Kenzil Lynn, President
American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas
Mike Shilling, President
Kansas Asphalt Pavement Association
Pat Weaver, President
MO/KS American Concrete Pavement Association
Tim Zynda, President
Kansas Ready Mixed Concrete Association