The most arrogant bullies threatening public education in Kansas aren’t enrolled in schools.
They were elected to the Legislature. These politicians are doing the bidding of a governor whose unchecked hubris could undercut one of the great promises of America — access to a quality public education for all children, regardless of where they live. The legislative actions this week, expected to be signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, are simply the latest.
Monday saw the Kansas Senate approve a bill to scuttle the current school funding formula and replace it with lump sum block grants. The House approved it last week.
Less than two weeks have passed since the block grant bill was introduced. Why the slam-through? To stifle backlash, to shorten the time for reasonable questioning.
Yes, this is temporary. The block grants will be used for two years while other formulas are revisited. A court challenge is also likely.
But let’s not forget how the state came to this place of crisis. Brownback’s backward tax plan caused a massive shortfall in the state coffers. Instead of admitting that calamity of budgetary foresight, legislators keep reaching for more ways to escape the constitutional duty of adequately funding public education.
Listen to the subtext around many of these efforts. It’s telling. Public education is the enemy. Teachers unions are the enemy. Intended or not, schoolchildren are being swept up as inconvenient casualties as well.
Many of the legislative moves are backed not by a deep regard for public education but rather a complete disregard for its complexity, its positive impact on society. That’s how the state came to the place where it was sued over the fairness of the old funding formula, an issue still in the courts.
Some legislators — virtually all conservative members of the GOP — chafe at the court’s intervention. So they went after the judges, attempting to change how some are chosen and to make other changes. Again, it’s bullying behavior.
Some legislative moves are petty, childish tinkering. A bill seeks to upend how the Kansas teacher of the year is chosen. The Legislature, not educators, would have the largest share of votes when deciding whom to name among the state’s best teachers.
One can only hope that parents and taxpayers will stop this nonsense. Because any child can tell you what happens when the bullies gain control: Learning suffers.