WTF Kansas?!

What's wrong with Kansas
Credit: John Darkow from The Cagle Post

I’m sure you already know what’s going on… but just in case you haven’t heard:

Here in Kansas, we’re clearly all about education…

The Kansas Supreme Court on Thursday gave the state until June 30 to fix its system of financing public schools, or face a court-ordered shutdown before the next school year begins.

Rather than improve the way it doled out state money, the court ruled, the Republican-controlled Legislature has failed to cure inequities between rich and poor school districts.

The decision is the latest blow to Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, and the state Legislature, which will probably have to find tens of millions of dollars in its budget for additional education funding.

Kansas is already facing deep fiscal woes in the wake of Mr. Brownback’s decision to cut taxes, which he predicted would help bolster the state economy. Revenue has fallen short of projections and he and lawmakers are scrambling to fill a roughly $200 million budget gap before the close of the session.

Tom Burroughs, the House minority leader, said in a statement that Mr. Brownback and his allies were guilty of mismanaging the state. But “rather than take responsibility for our state’s stagnant economy and self-inflicted budget crisis, Republicans chose to blame public education,” he said.

One Republican legislator told me he does not think the Kansas Supreme Court would dare close schools over such a paltry sum of the total school budget. He said he doesn’t think the Legislature can or will come up with a new formula by the deadline.

If he is wrong, which I suspect he is, consider how that might play out.

Schools would not open. And this fall, every seat in the Legislature is up for election.

Who would the public blame for this monumental disruption? The Legislature, which the courts say is stingy with its school funding.

But it’s even more frightening that this is also a Legislature that could dare to blow off the highest court in the state.

There is no way the Supreme Court would want to be viewed as toothless. Its integrity is on the line, even if this argument is over a tiny portion of the state’s school budget.

The Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback can huff and puff. They can blame an “activist” court. They can threaten to change through a constitutional amendment the way justices are selected.

But in the end, lawmakers will comply, even if that comes after the high court actually calls their bluff and closes the schools.

Sen. Ty Masterson said this week his proposal would shift money already allocated for K-12 districts to poorer districts. It would mean a funding decline for 189 school districts, with increases for 37 districts, according to a preliminary analysis by the Legislative Research Department, The Wichita Eagle reported Friday.

Meanwhile, a bill that Republican Rep. Ron Ryckman of Olathe introduced Friday in the House would give districts $39 million more in funding for the next school year. That would increase funding for 162 districts and reduce funding for 79 districts. Another 45 districts would have flat funding. The plan would use the state’s $17 million emergency fund for part of the funding.

An attorney for Wichita and other school district plaintiffs said earlier in the week that simply shifting funds would not satisfy the court’s order to fix equity.

We expect the Kansas legislature to act responsibly and ensure that public schools open their doors on time next school year,” KNEA officials said in a recent communication to districts. “We must believe that even the most extreme ideologues would realize the harm that inaction would inflict on the people of Kansas. Any school closure would have deep and lasting impacts.”

Our position is that it is completely incomprehensible that the state legislature would not do its job,” said Marcus Baltzell, KNEA spokesman. “That is our expectation.”

During a recent celebration to unveil a new bond-funded building in the Shawnee Mission School District, Deputy Superintendent Kenny Southwick was caught off guard by one teacher’s question: Should she request her summer paycheck now for fear there won’t be money in district coffers to pay her come July?

Southwick recalled that scenario during a meeting Tuesday morning with The Kansas City Star to talk about funding problems facing schools in Kansas.

“I couldn’t look her in the eye and tell her that she’ll be alright,” Southwick said. Teachers and school staff are nervous he said.

The Kansas Legislature and education leaders in the state have four months remaining to find a solution to what the Kansas Supreme Court has said is unconstitutional school funding.

I propose that we stop throwing sticks and stones and convene a meeting in Topeka as soon as possible, sit down and solve this issue,” he [Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson] said.

If that doesn’t happen, he said, then the no-funding train that is speeding down the track, “is going to crash right into the school bus in its path.”

As a teacher in Kansas, I am horrified, outraged, frustrated, and just a little scared. A government mandated school shut down does not just affect me and my livelihood. Think of all the families who cannot afford childcare. Think of all the kids who only have safety and stability behind school doors.

Just think about it, please Kansas, just think.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. clcouch123 says:

    “Liked” though the situation is awful. Until recently, when “security” became the trendy watchword of the day (and security is real though too easily politicized), anyone asked what is the most important issue in our (USA) society today would likely respond “education.” And yet societally we keep messing it up. Maybe the root of the problem is that education is funded by advocacy. By folk arguing and voting for a constituency of learners that are not in the room (and voting while there). That means the affects of decisions, or lack thereof, happen at a distance. A distance rendered theoretical and abstract (and thus further away) by touting political philosophy, which never hurts from feeling close. So let’s shut down the schools. Wait, let’s keep them open. Wait, we have to get the parity right. Wait, we can’t be seen as knuckling under to a part of government we don’t like–which is to say a part not us.

    Every legislator should be made to go to school for real. Go through the day, do homework, take quizzes and tests. Eat the food on site, try out the arts programs, if there. Then the legislators should journal. Then they should share their findings. They’ll find amazing learning and growth happening in spite of the ways in which schools and districts have been regulated and resourced.

    Clearly, I ramble. Sorry. You know all this. And more. Thanks for posting the news to build up our collective, correct outrage. I admire all the learning you make, through everything that’s going on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Call me Cordelia says:

      Well put. Thank you for reading and responding… now if only KS lawmakers would pull their heads out of their arses…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. clcouch123 says:

        Do they need help? Messy work but worth it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Call me Cordelia says:

        I’m sure they’ll never admit it!


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