Gov. Brownback visits McPherson, talks education, revenues

By Chris Swick
February 10, 2016

Governor Sam Brownback made a stop in McPherson Tuesday afternoon at the Board of Public Utilities, discussing a number of topics with area officials and business leaders, including education.

On education, Brownback said one of the biggest misconceptions about him is that he is anti-education, which just isn't true.

“I don't know that we've had a particularly healthy debate about how we make the system better and how we keep our best teachers and pay them better,” Brownback said. “That's what I would like to see us do.”

Brownback also pushed for the idea of merit pay for teachers, something the Kansas National Education Association isn't very keen on doing.

“You're paying your teachers that are really high-end, you're paying them better,” Brownback said. “I think we need to get out of this system where it's one-size-fits-all for everybody. I think we ought to drive performance by the money. We'll pay, but we've got to get the reading levels up to this.”

The governor did acknowledge that all students are not equal, so any merit-based pay system would have to be done in such a way that teachers also aren't punished for what students they've drawn in the classroom.

Another of the questions asked of Brownback related to revenues and the continued shortfalls. Brownback said the state is bringing in money, the revenues just aren't hitting projections.

“I'd like to see us go to a different projection system so we can, hopefully, be more reliable with them,” Brownback said. “Right now, we take three university professors, we've got people in the Department of Revenue and a couple of other places and they kind of eyeball what they think's going to happen. We've been primarily off in our sales tax.”

Short term, though, Brownback said he didn't know of any immediate fix.

“We're spending more money, and we're spending it in the areas that you would think,” Brownback said. “We're spending in K-12, we're spending it in KPERS and we're spending it in Medicaid. Most of the rest of the pieces of government are flat in their spending And out total spend is up 1.8 percent.”

Brownback added he believes part of the issue with the sales taxes coming in short is a regional issue, as both coasts of the United States seem to be fine in pulling in sales taxes, while the middle states struggle.