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Francie and I value education. Our five kids have gone to Lutheran, Catholic, and Public Schools. Our daughter is a public high school teacher. I have served on the Catholic and the Public School Boards.  I strongly support the best possible education for all of our children in Kansas. What I do not support is simply throwing money at education – or any program – and not getting the results that we deserve.

Kansas students deserve a good, adequately funded education. The focus must be on the student and the quality of the education – not just spending more. The taxpayers also deserve proper use of their money.

Unfortunately, most of the discussion about education in this election is about funding. That would be good if it were about how much is enough and what sort of results are we seeing. However, there has been almost no attention paid to finding better ways to address our education problems and how to provide increasingly better education.  Instead, there are stories of drastic cuts that have happened or are happening or will happen and the terrible consequences. This is just blatant fear mongering and it is being fed by some in the teachers’ union as well as the school districts. These are the people who want the money – they are also the same people who do not want the accountability for performance – or transparency as to where the money has gone.

We need better education approaches with more clearly defined goals and better measurements. Funding must be adequate to achieve those goals. Important to the appropriate approaches is local control, parental choice, focus on individual students, more respect for the profession of teaching and the individual teachers and building principals. Education must not continue with the current, increasingly bureaucratic, top-down, one size fits all, cookie cutter approach.

First, take a look at a recent exchange between my opponent and myself.

 

My opponent referred to “drastic cuts” in education since 2008. Here is the chart of funding for Unified School Districts showing various sources of funding and not counting private donations. At no time since 2007 has per pupil funding dropped below $12,000. Prior to 2005 it had been below $10,000 dollars. Clearly the steep increases of 2006, 2007, and 2008 have not been continued. This hardly constitutes “drastic cuts” especially considering that K-12 education is almost sixty percent of the state general funds budget – and state revenues have been reduced by the economic recession. What my opponent fails to say is that all but one of the cuts she refers to were done under a Democrat governor and while she was in the legislature. Yet, she somehow wants to blame the current administration and me for her own failed record.

But with all the increases in spending that we have seen in more than a decade we have seen virtually no increase in student scores. Since 1998 spending per pupil has almost doubled while all measures of student performance have remains essentially the same.

The increases in spending have more than compensated for inflation – much more – as shown on the chart below.

So, where is the money going? That question is not really answered in the chart below as it is not clear what is in each of the categories but it seems that funding of “instruction” has been rising pretty well as in 2011 it is over nine thousand a pupil while in 2005 it was under six thousand – a huge increase. But spending on instruction is not keeping up with the pace of increase in overall spending. In other words, the schools seem to not be getting the money to the classroom because of other priorities. As mentioned, what is in each category is not clear and the composition of the categories could be different in each year – and in each reporting district.

Let’s take a look at the history of school funding at the local level. The chart below reflects two things only: headcount by year and spending by year for the Leavenworth School District. I am proud of the school district and I can brag on the district for many things – and I often have. My children graduated from Leavenworth schools and got fairly good to excellent educations – a lot depends on the child.

We should keep in mind that Leavenworth has large special education expenditures – and has for all the years covered by the chart. Nonetheless, the chart reflects total expenditures against total attendance with information from the Kansas Department of Education.

Yet, Leavenworth School District is one of the districts using taxpayer money to fund a lawsuit against the taxpayers of Kansas for more money.

We should be talking about how to get more students performing better, more students completing successfully, more students achieving at the top of their capabilities. We should be finding ways to let teachers actually practice their profession, ways for building principals to do their jobs better.  Instead we are locked into satisfying the never ending demand of the union and its allies for more and more and more while they hold our children’s futures hostage.

Money is not the problem and money is not the answer.  Education must be adequately funded but we cannot ignore our responsibilities by just writing bigger and bigger checks. We must demand better value for our money – for our kids. We can do better and we must. Our children’s future and ours depends on it.

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Fitzgerald – Gilstrap

What’s the Difference?

Many people have been wondering just what the difference is between myself and Mark Gilstrap.  It is in fact a very good question; one I hope to shed some light on here.  Both Mark and I are pro-life and pro-2nd Amendment Republicans.  The real difference between us lies in our positions on the government spending, support to small business, and illegal aliens.  Allow me to explain those differences and why we need a different kind of leader in the State Senate.

 

Pro-Life? – We are both endorsed by KFL

I am a co-founder of the local chapter of the KFL, the pro-life coordinator for my church, and a frequent pro-life writer in local newspapers.

 

Pro-Gun? – We both have been rated “A” 

NRA and KSRA have given us both an A rating. I am strongly in favor of recognition of our Constitutional rights regarding firearms.

 

Government Spending, Support for Small Business? – Big difference

In 2008 Mark was rated by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) as being the worst senator in Kansas. Mark scored a 50 – no senator scored lower. But Mark had often scored low on such ratings. Kansas Taxpayer Network scored him at a 20 one year and even 10 another.  I started two small businesses – creating jobs that provided income to Kansas families. In 2008 while Mark was getting low scores, I was endorsed by NFIB.

Illegal Aliens? – We have a different history

Mark voted in 2004 to provide instate tuition to illegal aliens and in 2008 he helped to successfully defend it against an act which would have ended it – while at the same time denying this benefit to ROTC cadets who are American citizens. 1 He now claims he voted in 2008 to end all benefits for illegal aliens – but that vote was on an  amendment that was never going to pass and everyone knew it.

Leadership – Making a difference, getting things done

 Leadership is setting goals and objectives and finding ways to achieve them – getting others to help. Starting businesses demanded leadership. I helped start the local Kansans For Life, co-founded The Leadership Series for Republican men, and am working to unify the Republican Party for victory in 2012.

Experience                                                                       

My experience is as an Army officer and a businessman in the private sector and in grass roots Republican political activity. I have been elected to the school board and as vice president of the school board. I have also been elected as the treasurer of the Kansas State Republican Party.            

             

Summary

When did Mark start claiming to be a conservative Republican? In 2008 Mark was all about being a Democrat, claiming “I’ve been in the senate for 12 years [as a Democrat].  I haven’t changed” and “a more than 92 percent agreement between the votes of [Senator] Hensley [Democrat Minority Leader] and himself. “2   But, after the Democrat voters handed him a 22% defeat he changed parties.

Win or lose, I am and I have been the Conservative Republican candidate for the 5th District Senate seat. My positions have not changed – my affiliations have not changed. The real difference between us is that with me you can be sure of who and what you are voting for.

1 Journal of the Kansas Senate, Wednesday, March 26, 2008

2 Basehor Sentinel, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken.  “Obamacare” is Constitutional and it is the law of the land.  The issue is settled and done, right?  Not a chance!

The reason the Supreme Court said Obamacare is Constitutional is because it falls under Congress’ power to levy taxes. No matter how many times the Obama administration and the Democrats try and hide or downplay it by calling it a “penalty” or a “payment” or an “investment” the MANDATE that every citizen must purchase health insurance is a tax. And a HUGE one at that. In fact, it is THE largest tax increase in US history.  Yes, you read that right.  This President is responsible for the largest tax increase in history–  and that’s beside the MOUNTAIN of debt he’s accumulated AND the Bush Presidency tax cuts he is allowing to lapse (which is the second biggest tax increase if it lapses).

But regardless of whether or not it is called a penalty or a tax, it is an attack on YOUR liberty, YOUR freedom, YOUR property. Definitions of the word MANDATE include: an official or authoritative command; an order or injunction; an often controversial government requirement for the purchase of goods by individuals; an obligation handed down by an inter-governmental body. A MANDATE, by definition, is an attack on YOUR freedom and liberty to do as you choose.

At its core, this legislation is a massive overreach by our federal government into our personal lives.  Government emanates from the power of “We the People” and the Constitution describes the powers of a REPRESENTATIVE government that “We the People” loan it from our power, our rights and how “We the People” intend to limit it.  When the federal government exceeds its bounds it’s up to the people to correct the government’s over-reach.  Under the 10th Amendment in the FEDERAL constitution Kansas has an obligation to defend its residents from federal government intrusiveness and imposition as it states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

The federal government has a role.  It needs to provide for the common defense, to regulate interstate commerce, to protect our currency, provide for post offices and roads etc.  In other words, the federal government has the responsibility and authority to do for the common interest of the country what the States and “We the People” cannot do for ourselves. The decision and freedom to buy health insurance (or not to) is a personal one, NOT one for a FEDERAL government to dictate, and now MANDATE. Kansas legislators and we Kansans can solve our own problems and we have one last opportunity in the November election to do exactly that.

Steve

Leavenworth County Courthouse

There has been concern, expressed on Facebook and elsewhere, that I have waited until after re-districting to file for the Kansas Senate, 5th District. This has been portrayed as self-serving and a disregard for the good of the Party. I respectfully disagree and ask you to consider that I filed on time, after redistricting, as did a large number of candidates. Also, primaries are an American tradition that can serve the people and the parties well as they help to get the issues out and result in stronger, not weaker, candidates. The issues facing Kansas and the country today are extremely serious and they deserve careful consideration and thoughtful action based on consistent principles which we share. I would prefer to address those issues rather than who got here first. This is my attempt to put the matter to rest as we enter the campaign.

Here is the rest of the story:

1.       Why wait? I have been the Republican candidate for this seat since I filed in June of 2004 and my financial filing has been consistently on the Secretary of State’s website since then. This is not the same as filing or announcing; but, I did announce at the State Party Convention in February, followed by a local announcement the next week and both were immediately posted on Facebook and the local announcement on the front page of the local newspaper. I also made it clear to state and local party leadership in Nov. 2009 that I would not run for re-election in 2010 as the Kansas Republican Treasurer because I would be running for this office. I also discussed this with the Chamber of Commerce last August and with David Kensinger last October. In the meeting with Kensinger I noted that Mark was maneuvering to have my address drawn out of the district – spliting it out of Leavenworth City. At that time I told him that I would be working for a separate district for Leavenworth County, which would avoid the current situation.

2.       Why file only after redisricting? Because behind the scenes Mark was attempting to draw my address out of the district and I wanted to retain the flexibility to change my address should he succeed. I have correspondence from Mark Gilstrap to his friends in the Senate describing his prefered district and expressly asking that I be drawn out. This was given to me annonomously when Mark filed. Subsequently I was shown a map that in fact did draw my house and a surrounding block or two out of Leavenworth city. I told the senator that showed it to me that I if that map succeeded I would change my address. I had no intention letting such skulldugery succeed.

3.       Why not bring this up earlier? Because there seemed to be a good chance that Mark and I would be in separate districts. The Governor publically supported in writing a separate district for Leavenworth County and that would have put the matter to rest. I have always had excellent support in Leavenworth County, winning up to 60% of the vote – against Mark in the general election in 2004. I saw no reason to air all of this prematurely and hoped to let it die away as I knew it would be harmful to Mark and did not want to hurt his chances if we were to be in separate districts.

4.       Why run against Mark at all? I ran against Mark in 2004 for a number of reasons. Those reasons are still there. While I appreciate his pro-life and pro-gun votes, he has not been good for Leavenworth County, not been good for business overall, not been good on containing government spending, and not been good on illegal immigration. During the campaign I will address these and other issues.

5.       Isn’t this late filing a disregard for the good of the Party? Well, no. As I have mentioned I filed on time. And in this district Mark will lose against Kelly Kultala and that is not good for the Party, and worse, not good for Kansas. Even if he could win, Mark’s record in the senate is not good – ending in 2008 with the lowest rating by the NFIB among all Kansas senators. I ran against him in 2004 for good reasons – those reasons are still there. History was not rewritten when he got tossed from the Democrat Party –rather than voluntarily converting like many others. Again, I will make the case during the campaign by reviewing, among other things, his votes on business, spending, and illegal aliens.

I understand the desire to see a former Democrat succeed as a Republican and I applaud the help that has been so generously given to conservative candidates in the past. However, the situation is very serious and it is the issues that count. We must win this election and help get Kansas back on track to prosperity. In all humility I believe that I have taken the proper course to preserve the best chances for all involved and the best course for Kansas. I hope that this explaination is helpful and I welcome the opportunity to provide further clarification if desired. Once again, it is not my intention to disrupt or harm the Party in any way – quite the opposite. I have put many years into building up the Party and helping to lead it to a more Conservative understanding of government. That includes winning the county party for conservatives, working as county chair for Kline, Brownback, Carter, and Shallenbarger and at the precinct, district, state level which was recognized by my election as State Republican Treasurer in a very difficult time of rebuilding through a Federal Election Commission audit. Finally, I helped found and still help run The Leadership Series (the male counterpart of the women’s Eisenhower Series) which in the last two years has trained over eighty men for leadership. Our Party is being used for selfish political gain, only, not by me.

“As important as Reagan’s dramatic call to “tear down this wall” was, we should not forget what else he said that memorable day 25 years ago. His speech contained the most eloquent paean to religious freedom we have heard.”

~Read The Story~

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“Real Republican leaders have always defended individual liberty- including the freedom of religion.  It has been one of America’s great strengths and one of the reasons that we won the Cold War – without firing a shot. We need that same leadership today.” ~Steve Fitzgerald

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