Budget proposal has public education drawbacks, advantages
When Katie Draper, freshman in elementary education, recalls her last year of high school, she remembers one thing clearly: budgets.
Draper was on a student spending committee, formed in her high school after more budget cuts had been made to her district. Their specific purpose was to help faculty find ways to cut down on classroom costs.
“Our committee came in to existence because the district didn’t want to let go of any of the teachers after some statewide budget cuts,” Draper said. “So, we helped teachers in the district find ways to save money and helped decide what students could live without.”
It doesn’t look like these committees will be unnecessary any time soon.
Although Gov. Brownback’s proposed budget increases education spending by $129.3 million, most of the money will go into retirement funds, rather than classrooms. This means that public school districts will have to continue tightening their belt.
“For me, it’s not that we have to keep being frugal in our budget,” said Angela Barnett, elementary teacher in Overland Park. “Everyone is used to doing without in this economy.”
Barnett says that the biggest disappointment for many teachers is that they expected differently from Gov. Brownback.
“He definitely had a platform of making education a priority,” Barnett said. “We just expected a reprieve at this point, and instead the kids aren’t getting what we thought they were going to get.”
Draper says that despite the shortage of funds for the actual classroom, she understands the intentions behind Brownback’s decision.
“Even though this won’t do anything to improve the state of actual districts and classrooms, it still answers an issue that a lot of people have been asking for a long time, which is better benefits for teachers,” Draper said. “And eventually, if you can get better teachers in the profession, that will improve classrooms in itself.”
Brownback’s proposal sparked controversy again in education, in that he made the decision not to spend more money on special education funding. This decision could risk federal stimulus dollars that were dispersed especially for special education.
Emily McGregor, a sophomore in special education, said that not funding special education is an erroneous decision on Brownback’s part.
“Not funding for special education is like the worst place in education you could pick,” McGregor said. “These classrooms are the ones with the most expenses and the most needs, and without help from the state they don’t get what they need and the kids suffer a lot more drastically than kids in regular classrooms.”
McGregor listed insufficient special education teachers as an example.
“If the district can’t afford to keep on enough special education teachers, the kids with special needs in the district are going to have problems because one-on-one attention is really important in these classrooms,” said McGregor.
The proposal is still under negotiation in the state Congress, and needs a majority vote to pass.
“I would advise anyone who thinks this isn’t right to tell their Congressman about it,” McGregor said. “You don’t have to be directly involved in the issue to have an opinion.”