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SPOTLIGHT
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Tale of two laws

Published on -4/23/2014, 8:35 AM

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Dead dinosaurs are so much easier to please than living mammals. Of course, fossils are incapable of feedback, so we are making an assumption here.

But the response the Hays community will give Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback will vary greatly on two specific bills he has signed into law recently.

The first relates to official designation of the Tylosaurus as the state's marine fossil and the Pteranodon as the state's flying fossil. The governor will be at Sternberg Museum of Natural History today for a ceremonial signing of the new law.

It was a harmless piece of legislation; welcomed by almost everybody with the possible exception of holdouts who would have preferred given recognition to the Xiphactinus. And it did get Brownback out to Ellis County to tour one of the area's homegrown tourism treasures. Kudos for making the time.

Another piece of legislation that received the governor's signature this week related to school finance and assorted policy changes that affect quite a few more local residents -- hardly any of whom would say for the better. Legislators pushed through House Bill 2506 in the wee hours of the morning April 6, and proceeded to alienate teachers, administrators and taxpayers alike in the process.

Supporters claim the new law addresses a court order to correct the equity issue for school districts throughout the state. And there is $126 million for such purposes. Of course, a lot of the money comes from other existing programs that merely will rob Peter to pay Paul. The Kansas National Education Association expects approximately a dozen districts to come out ahead after the funding runs through the complex formula, and most districts to go backward.

Still the court might be satisfied with the equity issue, even if wealthier districts now will take advantage of an increased local option budget ceiling while poorer districts will not.

But the question of adequately funding all schools remains to be answered. HB2506 ignores the issue. We will not be surprised if the governor doesn't have to call another emergency session once the courts rule on the inadequacy of the state's financial support.

In the meantime, what the new law does accomplish is to authorize non-certified individuals to become teachers, strips away due process good teachers have been protected by for 60 years, directs public money to private schools with no demands of accountability, and cuts funding for at-risk students. Districts looking to lessen any of the financial effects will be forced to raise property taxes -- and still will have trouble maintaining existing quality results.

So if Gov. Brownback receives a chilly reception at Sternberg today, it will be because more area residents are concerned with what is happening to public education today than they are about honoring long-extinct creatures from a different age. Nothing against the Tylosaurus and Pteranodon; we're all for them. But we care even more about the state's direction for K-12 public schools -- and for the children who attend them.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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