Bill Graves' Report Cards

By Kevin L. Groenhagen

from the June 19 issue of the Lawrence Business Ledger


Bill Graves' Report Cards

   In a way, I think most of the Kansas press is
reacting to David Miller’s gubernatorial candidacy
as I initially reacted to the boys who had
“baptized” me 14 years ago in the Philippines. Let
me explain.

   I was on my way to the village of Licab to visit
the child I sponsored through an international
charity when—without warning—our jeep was hit with
water from all sides. As I wiped the water off my
face, I looked out the window and saw a group of
young boys refilling their buckets in the rice
field. Meanwhile, the equally soaked Filipinos in
the jeep were laughing. I instead opted for
name-calling, albeit silently, because these
little brats had drenched me from head to toe.

   The Christmas after this incident, I received a
travel guide on the Philippines from my father.
While reading it, I learned that on June 24 the
deeds of St. John the Baptist are reenacted in San
Juan, Manila, as friends, relatives, and
spectators are “baptized” by water thrown from and
at passing cars.

   This explained the boys’ “mischievousness.” Of
all days, I chose June 24 to visit Licab. However,
I was 100 miles north of San Juan, Manila. I
pulled out my map and found that our jeep had
passed through a small village named San Juan,
which is on the way from Cabanatuan City to Licab.

   If I had taken the time to read a travel guide
prior to my first trip to the Philippines, I may
have chosen to avoid anyplace named San Juan on
June 24. Or, even if I had traveled on June 24, I
would have understood that these boys were merely
taking part in a celebration and I would have
laughed along with the other passengers in the

   In much the same way, I believe many in the
Kansas press have not taken the time and effort to
understand Miller and other conservatives, and
have instead decided to engage in name-calling.
Conservatives, they tell us, are “Wing Nuts,”
“extremists,” and not “regular Republicans.” This
may be an expected response since, in their minds,
Miller’s candidacy is unwanted mischief-making.

   While I am unaware of any conservative “travel
guide” for members of the Kansas press, I think
they could begin to understand the conservatives’
dissatisfaction with Gov. Bill Graves if they were
to read two “report cards” that are readily
available on the Internet.

   The first, the libertarian Cato Institute’s 1996
“Fiscal Report Card on America’s Governors” (see, rates the
“fiscal conservatism” of the nation’s governors.
According to Cato, “With few exceptions, the 16
Republican governors elected in 1993 and 1994 have
admirable records of supply-side tax cuts and
budget downsizing.” Graves is one of those

   “Graves’s first two years in office have been
fiscally schizophrenic,” Cato reports. Further,
“Graves got off to a solid start, but he now seems
to be a guardian of the status quo and an enemy of
growth-oriented reform.”

   Graves’ “schizophrenic” record on fiscal matters
earned him a grade of C. Remarkably, this is one
grade below what Joan Finney received from Cato
after her first two years as governor of Kansas.

   With this year’s record-setting tax cut, Graves
is likely to receive a higher grade for his fiscal
performance during 1997 and 1998. However, an A is
undoubtedly out of the question since Graves
approved a general fund budget this year that
increases spending by 9.3 percent next year. This
increase is far above the level of inflation.

   The second report card was issued last January by
Education Week ( Done in
conjunction with the left-leaning Pew Charitable
Trusts, Education Week’s “Quality Counts ’98"
report card compiles over 70 specific indicators
and grades each state on its policies and
performance in four major categories: standards
and assessments; quality of teaching; school
climate; and resources. Last year, Kansas earned a
“gentleman’s C.” This year, Kansas received a
solid D.

   Under Graves’ watch, Kansas’ grades fell in each
of the categories rated by Education Week. Perhaps
most troubling is the D- Kansas received for
“Allocation.” According to Education Week, Kansas’
“allocation grade fell because only one other
state devotes a lower share of its expenditures to
classroom instruction, the one indicator we used
in this area.” Education Week reports that just
57.6 percent of annual expenditures earmarked for
education are spent on classroom instruction.

   When Graves signed the school-finance bill in
1996, he praised lawmakers for achieving their
primary responsibility, which he defined as “the
funding of our children’s education.”
Unfortunately, Graves has done little, if
anything, to ensure that these funds—which have
been increased substantially since Graves took
office—are being properly invested.

   If those in the press who are anti-Miller were to
suspend their name-calling long enough to read
these two important report cards, they might begin
to understand why Kansas’ conservatives believe
that—when it comes to fiscal policies and
education—C’s and D’s just aren’t good enough.
This understanding might even prevent a few
editorial writers and columnists from finding
themselves all wet on Aug. 4.

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