Parents in Kansas are disgusted with Governor Sam Brownback’s massive budget cuts. The cuts were inevitable after Brownback and the legislature enacted the biggest tax cuts in the state’s history in 2012 and 2013. They must have been following the Reagan playbook of trickle-down economics, but it didn’t work. The State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to enact an equitable and adequate plan to finance the public schools.

And now parents are gearing up to fight for their public schools.

The struggle over school funding in Kansas reached a new crisis point when the State Supreme Court on Friday ruled that the Republican-dominated Legislature had not abided by its constitutional mandate to finance public schools equitably, especially poorer districts with less property wealth. The court, in an effort to force legislative action, reiterated a deadline that gave the state until June 30 to fix the problem or face a school shutdown.

The ruling exacerbated tensions over budgets enacted by Mr. Brownback and the Legislature that education officials say have led school districts to eliminate programs, lay off staff members or even shorten the school week….

Of even greater concern to many parents is a sense, they say, that the state leadership does not support the very concept of public education.

“People are saying, ‘This is not the Kansas I know,’ and ‘This is not the Republican Party I know,’” said Judith Deedy, who helped start the group Game On for Kansas Schools.

As in other states, the effect of reduced funding varies from one district to another. In poorer districts like Kansas City and Wichita, students are crammed into deteriorating buildings with bloated class sizes. One district in southeast Kansas, facing a budget shortfall, recently pared its school week to four days.

Parents who are Republicans feel betrayed by Governor Brownback and some plan to run against their incumbent representatives.

Educators are struggling to meet the needs of their students:


In Kansas City, school officials say they have been shortchanged by tens of millions of dollars over the past five years because the Legislature has not taken into account their needs when financing poorer districts like theirs. Ninety percent of the students in the Kansas City school district qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 40 percent are nonnative English speakers.

Cynthia Lane, the superintendent of schools in the Kansas City district, said preparations were underway in case schools are shut down, as the Supreme Court has threatened. Schools are usually busy during the summer months, with administrators and members of staff preparing for the upcoming academic year, she said. The first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 15.

“If we can’t pay bills, how do we keep our utilities on, how do we keep our security system on?” she said. “Folks are really frustrated and embarrassed that Kansas is the butt of jokes across the nation. He continues to say things are fine, when they are not fine.”

The Wichita School Board voted on May 18 to eliminate more than 100 jobs and to close an alternative high school, as part of efforts to trim about $18 million from the district’s budget.

At that meeting, Mike Rodee, the vice president of the board, blamed state officials for forcing budget cuts. “We need to look at all the people that are doing it to us,” he said at the school board meeting. “Our legislators, our government, our governor — we are the ones who are fighting to keep the schools alive, and they are fighting to close them.”

Some school principals say they are resigned to making do with what money they have. At Welborn Elementary School in Kansas City, classes are held in two aging buildings and students dash back and forth during the day. Teachers keep a watchful eye on them as they cross an active parking lot between the buildings.

“I don’t need much,” said Jennifer Malone, the principal, one recent afternoon. “I just want a building.”

Governor Brownback has called a special session of the legislature to enact a new funding formula. Just hope that he doesn’t fund the schools by cutting the universities or other public services.