Kansas budget director apologizes for error in Brownback's statistics

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kansas budget director Steve Anderson apologized Monday for what he said was a mistake in a government document that led to Governor Sam Brownback erroneously citing claims the state spent nearly $2 billion more than it actually had in his predecessor's final year.

"We should have caught the incorrect information but we did not. I apologize to Gov. Brownback and the citizens of Kansas for this error," Anderson said in a statement. 

The concession that information Brownback reportedly used in informal presentations to community leaders was inaccurate came after the Wichita Eagle reported over the weekend that the Republican governor had used that and other spending-related data to help sell his budget plans statewide.

Brownback's office on Monday also sought to clear up confusion over the Governor's use of an education statistic at odds with those kept by the state's Department of Education.

"Our schools only get 54 cents of every valuable education dollar into the classroom. This at a time when we put more state money into K-12 per capita than any surrounding state … and when total spending averages more than $12,600 per student per year," Brownback said in his state of the state address on Jan. 15.

The Kansas Department of Education says the state actually spends more like 62 cents out of every education dollar in the classroom, and has filed that number with the federal government. Kansas was an early adopter of the so-called "65 percent solution" which aims to keep 65 percent of education funds spent on the classroom or instruction directly.

The governor's office said Monday that the discrepancy between the two numbers comes from a disagreement about what classroom spending really means. The Governor, backed by at least one conservative think tank, includes the state's commitment to the public retirement fund KPERS and other capital outlays, while the Kansas Department of Education figure -- in keeping with federal guidelines -- does not.

The fight over what counts as in-classroom spending will be central to ongoing budget discussions, including hearings expected this week in the Kansas House Appropriations Committee.

Critics say Brownback's use of the 54 percent figure distorts the true picture of school funding, and that the legislature should base their budgetary decisions on the federally-accepted 62 percent level.

"The Brownback numbers are seriously off and so to change education policy based on those numbers would be a horrific mistake," said Pat Colloton, a Republican and former member of the Kansas House Education Committee.

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