Kansas stands on the shocking cusp of having its public schools closed next week, throwing the educational futures of 500,000 children into chaos.
So how are the adults doing at solving this problem?
About as poorly as one would expect in a state that’s basically broke.
Some Kansas lawmakers engaged in childish temper tantrums last week as they met ahead of this week’s special legislative session on K-12 funding.
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They talked nonsensically about defying the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling on schools or passing new constitutional amendments to try to grab power away from the court.
They threw out ideas to slice even more welfare aid, divert added road funds and find other potential ways to scrape together the money required to keep the school doors open.
Meanwhile, superintendents of some of the state’s blue-chip districts in Johnson County held a news conference to make self-serving pleas to hold them harmless from the latest budget woes.
Business executives in the county that’s the economic engine of Kansas chimed in about the importance of educating children in the state. No kidding.
But here’s the harsh reality that faces all Kansans as the Legislature tries to find a constitutional way to finance public schools:
▪ The disastrous economic policies approved by Gov. Sam Brownback and ultra-conservative Republican lawmakers are financially ruining Kansas — yet lawmakers irresponsibly won’t repeal the income tax cuts that created this crisis.
▪ Only bad choices are left for the Legislature as it tries to keep K-12 schools open past June 30, when the Supreme Court says they could have to close without a constitutional funding plan in place.
Consider the claim by Johnson County school and business leaders that placing an extra $50 million into the funding pot could satisfy the court’s ruling. Brownback has conceded an extra $38 million could be needed, but that proposal could require budget cuts for the local school districts such as Blue Valley, Shawnee Mission and Olathe.
“What’s another $11 (million) or $12 million out of a $4 billion state (school) budget?” asked Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson.
Hello, reality: Every dollar counts in the Sunflower State. It has almost monthly problems meeting its revenue predictions and blew through its $700 million in cash reserves a few years ago.
Johnson County’s preferred fix also might not pass constitutional muster if the court decides “poorer” districts such as Kansas City, Kan., and Wichita still aren’t equitably supported.
Put simply, the budgets of Johnson County schools plus more than 90 other districts in the state might take a short-term hit so a larger number of school districts are constitutionally funded.
Don’t like that answer?
Elections this year will give voters in Johnson County and the rest of the state ample opportunities to change the Legislature. It’s time to put the futures of Kansas children ahead of the tax-cut mania that grips too many GOP lawmakers in Topeka.