Friday, May 12, 2006
Legislature Whacks Golden-Egg Laying Goose
In an amazing display of short-sightedness, the Kansas legislature passed a school finance bill over the objections of all 22 representatives from Johnson county. The bill provides very large increases of $927.00 per pupil to the smaller school districts in the state; Shawnee Mission, already spending significantly less per capita, gets $236.00. Thus, the incentives for local jurisdictions are to remain as small as possible, which eliminates any possibility of economies of scale.
Rocket science - not a requirement to understand why strangling Johnson County schools hurts the whole state.
People chose to live where their children can get a first class education. The mix of good public safety, good schools and good roads that Johnson county offers its residents is the engine of economic growth in the county. Take away any one of these three fundamentals, and people will go someplace else. For example, Lee's Summit, MO, which offers a similar base of essentials at a lower cost than Johnson County.
Although the rest of the state intensely dislikes Johnson County, the county is the only bright spot in the entire state economy. If it were not for JoCo, the state of Kansas would be in an economic recession; that is, the economy in the rest of the state has steadily shrunk.
In voting for this school finance plan, legislators voted against economic progress for the state; voted against local control of school finances, and voted against economically run large school districts. In supporting this plan, legislators voted in favor of small, costly, fragmented school districts; voted in favor of moving the middle and upper middle class across the state line into Missouri; voted in favor of public school mediocrity; and voted in favor of continuing to let Topeka decide how much money citizens are allowed to spend on public education.
The legislature ignored their own study, which they commissioned and paid for, in crafting this bill. The governor passed the last school finance bill directly to the state supreme court without her signature for expedited review. She should do the same with this one.
Actions have consequences. The die is cast. We live, as the ancient Chinese curse goes, "in interesting times."