The good news, and it really is good news, is that the Kansas public schools will not be closed on July 1. The Kansas Legislature worked for two days in a remarkably civil fashion and came up with a fix that had no strings attached, no add-on disasters, no extra baggage to weigh it down.
It wasn't all sunny days though. There was an attempt to amend the Kansas Constitution to make "closing schools" something no branch of government could do. But in a delightful turn, the Kansas Senate stepped up and slapped it down. There was a half-hearted attempt to keep the vote open and twist arms, but nothing came of it and reason prevailed. In the end, they did not have the votes.
And, of course, there was quite a bit of posturing in the hearings held in the run up to the vote. This is an election year, and nobody wants to be seen as voting against education. So all the legislators who have previously voted to curtail teacher rights, cripple teacher contract negotiations, strip money from classrooms, send taxpayer funds to private and parochial schools, eliminate college and career ready academic standards, freeze funding levels, and even cut them back more, well, they wanted on the record as supporting education. There were speeches and accusations and backroom bartering enough to fill a regular session.
In the end, they got it done. Nobody said that politics was pretty.
But now that the dust has settled, and the Legislature has adjourned again, we are seeing a lot of discussion about just who saved education.
Let's be perfectly clear.
Schools were threatened by Governor Brownback and his allies, the most extreme members of the Legislature. Their negligent lawmaking passed illegal and inadequate funding bills, and the schools sued to stop them.
The Kansas Supreme Court forced the legislature to fund schools legally. They did not close schools. They did not make law. They did not assume control of the purse strings, whatever Brownback and his allies want to tell you. They merely did their job, impartially, making sure laws meet the standards set by the people of Kansas in our Constitution.
The moderates, both Republican and Democrat, did the work to fix this problem. Some in the legislative leadership originally proposed calling the Court's bluff. Some suggested not adding any more money to school funding, in a take your ball and go home gambit. Finally, with the deadline looming, they came up with a plan to take money away from school classrooms to redistribute for the fix. This despite a Democratic plan that found the $38 million needed without taking even more from schools, a plan given lip service at best.
- Republicans offer to fix school equity problem by taking other school funds - Lawrence JW
- GOP opens Kansas special session by blocking introduction of Democratic schools plan - Topeka CJ
But in the end, the extremist leadership did not have the votes they needed. Out of the mess that seemed to be brewing, a plan was worked out in the hallways and offices of moderate legislators. A plan that did not take from some schools to give to others. A plan that may even have fixed the equity problem for good. A plan that was quickly taken by the leadership and presented as their own negotiated salvation.
But we know what really happened. We know who kept our schools from closing. And we know who manufactured this crisis in the first place.
Primary elections are on August 2nd. Not everyone has a primary, but almost every primary is critical to the future of Kansas.
Stay with us, and we will make sure you have all the information you need to make a decision.
Do more than vote. Step up. Stand up. Speak out.