By Amanda Litvinov
The voters of Kansas face a clear choice on Election Day: Return to the failed policies of former Gov. Sam Brownback, or recommit to common sense values where public schools are a top priority.
Laura Kelly, a state Senator running for governor of Kansas, has earned the support of the state’s educators because she values teachers and has consistently worked to support public schools in the state legislature. Kelly was recommended by the political action committee of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), which represents 25,000 of the state’s educators.
Senator Kelly’s platform includes a comprehensive vision to strengthen opportunities for Kansas students, from pre-kindergarten through high school and beyond. Her resolve is heartening to educators and parents following years of disinvestment under former Gov. Brownback, whose tax cuts for wealthy corporations and citizens led to devastating cuts to education funding.
Per pupil spending in Kansas declined by $861, or 14.6%, between 2008 and 2015. Faced with tough decisions, some districts increased class sizes, cut paraeducator hours, and eliminated extracurriculars. Some even shaved days from the school year.
Kelly was part of a bipartisan effort to repeal Brownback’s devastating policy, and she secured critical funding for early childhood education. Expanding funding for K-12 schools, particularly for underserved communities, is one of the top priorities of her campaign.
“There’s a reason Senator Kelly has twice received KNEA’s highest acknowledgment of service to the mission of public education,” Mark Farr, KNEA president, said. “She and her running mate, Senator Lynn Rogers, have a legacy as advocates for Kansas students, our public schools and the dedicated professionals who ensure our kids are safe and have the opportunity to achieve their greatest potential.”
Kelly’s chief opponent, meanwhile, promise to return to Brownback-style attacks on public schools.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a darling of radical conservatives known across the nation for his wild claims of widespread voter fraud and anti-immigrant rhetoric, is running a campaign based on promises of tax cuts and spending cuts. He opposes the $548 million increase to education funding approved by legislators this year to meet a Kansas Supreme Court mandate.
Kobach has accused public schools of wasteful spending on administration and “Taj Mahal” buildings. However, a study commissioned by conservative legislators–who hoped the report would show that schools receive plenty of financial resources and then squander them–found that Kansas schools are exceedingly efficient in their spending, but grossly underfunded. The researchers concluded that the state should be spending between $1.8 billion and $2.1 billion more on education each year.
Kobach’s recent claim that one Wichita high school has 12 assistant principals is completely untrue.
Blame and austerity are not what Kansas’ educators are seeking from their next governor. Sen. Kelly’s record and her respect for educators stand in stark contrast to Kobach’s actions and attitudes toward public education.
“I’m not new to the struggle educators and students have endured in recent years,” Senator Kelly has stated during her campaign.
“I have fought against policies that put the interests of a select few ahead of the promise of opportunity for every Kansas student,” said Kelly. “Throughout my career, I have stood with our teachers and the professionals who are closest to our students in the classroom. As governor, I will make certain our schools, our teachers and our students will be a priority once again.”