Newton superintendent responds to Brownback’s board member reference

(AP Photo/John Milburn, File)

NEWTON, Kansas — Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback spoke Friday in Topeka about education funding and the need to create a new school funding formula.

“I do everything I can to protect K-12 funding. That’s why we’ve increased it [funding] every year,” said Gov. Brownback.

During Gov. Brownback’s press conference, he was asked whether he would be willing to meet with Kansas school districts whose representatives say they are struggling to fund their schools.

The governor responded by saying he did that recently in Newton, saying it was “kind of a classic.”

“A local school board member was there, and they were saying, ‘Look, we’re hurting. We’ve done everything we can and our budget is hurting,'” Gov. Brownback said.

He continued:

“I handed her the budget that we had given that school district that year versus the last year, and it was more money. Now, I don’t know what they’re gaining off of their local inputs of funds, and that would vary based on their own property taxes.

I handed it to her and she said, ‘Well, it’s all KPERS,’ and I said, ‘Well, no, we broke out the KPERS piece of it too. We put more into KPERS and we put more into operation from the state, but that’s not your total budget.'”

Following Gov. Brownback’s reference, KSN reached out to the superintendent of Newton Public Schools, Dr. Deborah Hamm.

Dr. Deborah Hamm
Dr. Deborah Hamm

“I just think that the whole story isn’t being told,” said Dr. Hamm. “It was an event for another purpose and he [Gov. Brownback] was asked questions by a school board member who was there about the funding.”

The superintendent spoke with that school board member Friday after we told her about Brownback’s reference.

“The board member is… surprised,” said Hamm, “that the communication was that somehow the board member was convinced that yes, that is true, when we know it’s not.”

That may be because Newton’s operating budget for the 2015-2016 school year had to be cut by $750,000 in order to stay even.

Dr. Hamm says there appears to be a disconnect.

“We can talk about how much more money is going in, and yes, it is. But, we have a number of needs that are going unmet,” said Hamm.

“While I appreciate the governor having a conversation with our school board member in a meeting that was for a different purpose, I really think it needs to be about sitting down and talking about… the needs that are not being met,” she added.

Gov. Brownback: “I think the discussion needs to be on the numbers.”

“My intention is to fight for kids of Kansas and kids in Newton,” said Dr. Hamm.

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