Education funding is a key focus of the two Republicans running to represent the 20th District in the Kansas House.
Incumbent Rob Bruchman faces challenger Mark Read in the primary Tuesday. The winner will run unopposed in the Nov. 6 general election.
Read decided to run for office after seeing effects of cuts in state education funding on local schools. For Read, everything comes back to education, including building the district’s economy through local business development.
“Even if we have plenty of office space, which we do on the Sprint campus, the first question people always ask is ‘How are the schools?’ ” Read said. “Does someone want to move into your neighborhood or move to a different district that is not having this school problem?”
In answering a Star questionnaire, Read said schools were not adequately funded. The state property tax, which supports schools, has been cut from 35 mills in 1996 to 20 mills today, he said. As a result, the Shawnee Mission School District has had to cut millions from its budget, he said.
“This has resulted in the student/teacher ratio to climb, intramural programs at the elementary and middle school levels to be cut, band and strings programs reduced, librarians, safety officers” cut, among others, Read said.
Read does not support Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to eliminate the state income tax in favor of sales taxes. He supports a balance of sales, income and property taxes.
“A significant increase in the state sales tax would have a tremendous effect on sales of equipment and services and would in effect act as a tariff tax, putting our state’s small businesses at a significant disadvantage when competing with out-of-state competitors,” Read said.
Bruchman, who did not respond to a request for an interview, said in a Star questionnaire that he supports Brownback’s income tax plan, but that repeal of the tax would depend on the state’s budget and economy.
“We should always work toward lower taxes and increased government efficiency while balancing the needs of our schools and other services provided by our state,” Bruchman said.
Like Read, Bruchman wrote in his Star questionnaire that schools were not adequately funded.
“We need fair and equitable distribution of tax dollars for Johnson County schools,” Bruchman said. “I believe the current school finance formula is hindering our ability in Johnson County to properly fund our schools. I support increased local control so that local communities have the ability to raise additional educational funding with taxpayer approval.”
He supports increasing the local option budget authority, as does Read.
“I believe public schools are the cornerstone of our quality of life in Johnson County,” Bruchman said.
Bruchman says on his website that he supports small government and promises to reduce unnecessary governmental regulations.