Accountability Budget Cuts Funding Kansas Teacher Shortage

Kansas: Governor Brownback’s Radical Experiment in Destroying Public Schools

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People of Kansas: Tomorrow is your chance to vote for legislators who support your community’s public schools!

Vote for the candidate who pledges to oppose Governor Brownback’s tax cuts. Vote for your public schools.

Kansas has become a textbook case of conservative incoherence. Conservatives are supposed to “conserve,” but in Kansas and elsewhere they are destroying traditional institutions. Governor Sam Brownback has cut taxes to stimulate business and cut school budgets. Public schools that were once the pride of their community are struggling to stay afloat. You can be sure that in the wings are charter entrepreneurs and peddlers of vouchers.

The battle is being waged in affluent suburbs, which value their public schools yet elect conservative legislators who slash their budgets. The election this fall will see challenges to many of those legislators.

Kansans are faced with a stark choice: good public schools or lower taxes.

Small-government Republican conservatives face a political backlash in Kansas because of the state’s budget problems and battles over education funding, and the epicenter is in sprawling Kansas City suburbs where residents have cherished public schools for decades.

But the Democrats and GOP moderates hoping to lessen the grip Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s allies have on the Legislature must contend with a political paradox in Johnson County, home to those affluent suburbs. Its voters regularly approve bonds and property tax increases for schools while electing conservative legislators who’ve backed the governor’s experiment in slashing state income taxes.

More than two dozen conservative Republican legislators face challengers in Tuesday’s primary, including 11 in Johnson County, the state’s most populous. Challengers there have made education funding a key issue.

“You could rely on one thing, and that was public education,” said Gretchen Gradinger, a lawyer and Johnson County native who moved back from Missouri two years ago so her young son could attend the public schools she knew growing up. “For 60 years, you could rely on one thing.”

Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since the Republican-dominated Legislature heeded Brownback’s call in 2012 and 2013 to cut personal income taxes as an economic stimulus. He won a tough re-election race in 2014, but his popularity has waned with the state’s ongoing budget woes.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Supreme Court could rule by the end of the year in an education funding lawsuit on whether legislators provide enough money to schools to fulfill a duty under the state constitution to finance a suitable education for every child. The State Board of Education is recommending phasing in an $893 million increase in aid over two years.

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