Sam Brownback asked for advice.
He wanted Kansans to email him their thoughts as lawmakers prepare to work on a new school finance formula next year. What he got was a mixture of policy ideas and a blistering string of messages that attacked his tenure as governor, according to emails released briefly by his office late Friday afternoon.
“The way Brownback is running Kansas is a disgrace,” one email read.
But not all of the emails took that tone.
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Steve Karlin, the superintendent in Garden City, Kan., signed a letter from his district asking the state to stand by funding commitments to schools. They didn’t want to have to worry about midyear budget cuts.
Wayne Burke, superintendent of Johnson County’s Spring Hill School District, said in his email that he wanted the old school finance formula to come back, with some changes.
And Victoria Manning, principal of the Pleasant Valley Middle School in Wichita, wrote to ask for more staff, smaller class sizes and new chances for students to be involved in school.
These were just some of the emails released Friday by Brownback’s administration. In a late August news conference, he asked Kansans to send in advice on a new school funding formula.
The emails were made available to reporters in the Kansas statehouse late Friday afternoon for roughly two hours. The Star originally filed a public records request for the emails in September. Melika Willoughby, the governor’s spokeswoman, said she wasn’t sure how many emails were received by the governor’s office.
“Educators, parents and students from across the state submitted quality proposals to the Students First account,” Brownback said in a statement. “Input crossed the political spectrum, bringing forth ideas like educational choice, putting more money in the classroom, rewarding teachers for excellent work, additional funding streams, innovative programs like Kansas Reading Roadmap, and greater emphasis on early childhood education.”
Brownback’s landmark tax cuts frequently came up in the messages. That included people calling for Brownback to roll back his 2012 tax cut that took roughly 330,000 businesses off the state’s tax rolls.
Some wrote in to say that legalizing marijuana could play a part in funding Kansas schools. Another handful said the state’s money from selling lottery tickets should be the solution for school funding issues.
One woman in Overland Park asked Brownback to improve pay and benefits for Kansas teachers.
But even her more measured email wasn’t without a critique of the governor.
“Your experiment is a failure (and) it’s high time you get us on the road to recovery,” she wrote.