Archives for category: Kansas

Robert Hubbell blogs about the frightening new face of the GOP and an important reason for the surprising victory of reproductive rights forces in Kansas.

He writes:

The GOP is rapidly embracing autocracy and white Christian nationalism as its rallying cry. That rightward drift is anxiety-producing and creates the understandable urge to look away. We cannot do so. However painful or revolting it is to watch the descent of the GOP into madness and hate, if we hope to defeat the anti-democratic forces animating the Republican Party, we must be clear-eyed about the threat the party poses to American democracy.

We must be explicit in naming and describing the threat. We must identify and defeat every foot-solider and sympathizer who promotes or excuses tyranny and white nationalism. If we do so, we will preserve democracy. We can win. We will win. But only if we fight from a position firmly rooted in reality. From that vantage, let’s look at the GOP’s latest flirtations with white nationalism and despotism.

The influential and ultraconservative Conservative Political Action Conference is holding its latest meeting in Dallas, Texas. (Where else?) CPAC’s two keynote speakers are Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump. Both are wannabe dictators, though Orbán has made more progress towards that goal than Trump.

Orbán promotes an ugly brand of politics based on hate and racial superiority (for whites, of course). He has recently saidthat Hungarians “do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” causing one of his cabinet members to resign, saying Orbán’s remarks were “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” He blames much of the world’s troubles on George Soros—an attack line that is a dog-whistle for antisemites. Indeed, he went so far at the CPAC conference to claim that “a Christian politician cannot be racist” because . . . well, because they are Christian. And like the Nazis, Orbán has led a national crusade of discrimination against LGBTQ people.

In most of the world, an audience would recoil in horror at remarks that explicitly invoked the Nazi ideologies of antisemitism, racial superiority, and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Not at the CPAC convention in Texas. Orbán received multiple standing ovations as he delivered remarks that could have easily been delivered in Nazi Germany in 1935. See The Independent, Fresh from furor over ‘Nazi’ speech, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban welcomed by American conservatives.

Notably, no Republican politician has condemned Orbán’s remarks. Instead, they are lining up to speak at CPAC. Other speakers comfortable sharing the podium with a “Nazi-curious” dictator include Trump, Ted Cruz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, and Sean Hannity. No surprises there.

The despotic yearnings of CPAC are not an aberration. They have become part of the GOP DNA. Charles M. Blow addresses this trend in his column in the NYTimes on Thursday: Opinion | The Republican Party Is the Anti-Democracy Party. Blow notes that The Heritage Foundation (self-described as “the most influential conservative group in America) is actively promoting the idea that “America is not a democracy,” but a “republic.”

While that statement is a truism (there are no pure democracies in the world), The Heritage Foundation uses the term “republic” to mean “white nationalist patriarchy.” Strong words, I know, but here is what The Heritage Foundation wrote in 2020:

America is threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty.

That passage deserves re-reading. The Heritage Foundation claims that America is threatened by “egalitarianism.” What?! Egalitarianism is defined as “the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.” So, the Heritage Foundation is against “equal rights and opportunities for all??

Yes, it is! The Heritage Foundation goes on to say that “inequalities undergird ourpolitical liberty.” Re-read the preceding phrase—twice! It is breathtaking. In that phrase, “our” can only refer to the privileged, white elite that has ruled America since its founding. For The Heritage Foundation, “our political liberty” is based on “inequality.” Unbelievable.

So, the two leading Republican advocacy groups are actively promoting a white, Christian nationalism that is antithetical to the declaration that created America: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . .

If we can get past the grievance mentality that Trump manipulates to his advantage, the positions embraced by CPAC and The Heritage Foundation are repugnant to most Americans. We need only articulate that truth in a way that resonates with their inherent belief in the American promise of equality. If we can do that, we have a fighting chance to turn the GOP’s message of hate against its most ardent promoters. The victory in Kansas points the way. Read on!

Messaging in Kansas.

With the benefit of 48 hours hindsight, it is becoming clear that a critical component of the victory in Kansas was messaging (a fact noted by dozens of readers in Comments and emails today). Charlie Sykes does an excellent job of reviewing the commentary on this issue in his Morning Shots newsletter. From WaPo,

Abortion rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans.

And check out this television ad that describes the anti-abortion effort as an attempt to impose “a strict government mandate” that was “a slippery slope that would put more of your individual rights at risk.”

Messaging wasn’t the only reason that reproductive choice won in Kansas on Tuesday, but it was undoubtedly one of the reasons that a majority of persuadable Independents and some Republicans voted “No” on the anti-choice measure.

It will not require an advertising genius to draft ads demonstrating that the ugly ideologies of CPAC and The Heritage Group are antithetical to America’s founding ideals.

We can do that. We did it. In Kansas.

Kansas was the first state in the nation to hold a referendum on abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Kansas protects the right to abortion in its state constitution. A “yes” vote would have repealed that protection and enabled the GOP majority in the legislature to write new restrictions or to ban abortion altogether. A “no” vote would protect the abortion language in the state constitution.

In 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled 6-1 that the state constitution protected abortion rights. Anti-abortion activists hoped that this referendum would reverse the 2019 decision.

The judges in Kansas blocked the law on the basis of the state Constitution’s Bill of Rights, ruling that it “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body.” This extends, they ruled, to the decision of whether to have an abortion.

Political commentators expected a close vote. Kansas is a conservative state, even though it has a Democratic Governor.

The vote was not close. The vote to preserve abortion rights in the state constitution was decisive. At last count, it was about 60%-40%.

Voters of both parties supported women’s right to bodily autonomy.

CNN commented:

Polls have consistently shown that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is broadly unpopular. A CNN poll released in late July found nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court decision, with even 55% of self-identified moderate or liberal Republicans saying they disapproved of the decision. But the results on Tuesday, the first electoral test of abortion rights after the Supreme Court decision, put an even finer point on that sentiment.

One can only imagine what would happen if abortion rights were put on the ballot in every red state, rather than left to the male-dominated state legislatures who would like to turn back the clock by at least 50 years and keep women barefoot and pregnant.

In the fog of the pandemic, it’s hard to keep track of school closings and cancellation of state testing.

In Kansas, Governor Laura Kelly ordered closure of school buildings but schooling will
continue.

CLARIFICATION: Governor Kelly didn’t cancel school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. She closed school buildings. Schools will be working to implement Continuous Learning plans for all students.
KS Dept of Education @ksdehq

Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas announced that all schools are closed for the rest of the school year.

Governor closes Kansas schools, puts most state employees on administrative leave

Be prepared to hear about more states doing the same.

No one knows how long the global pandemic will continue, but there’s no end in sight.

 

Jan Resseger describes the after-effects of former Kansas Governor Sam Brownback’s crash program to cut corporate and income taxes and expect an economic boom. The boom never came, but public services were strained to the breaking point.

Jan quotes liberally from Governing magazine:

Governing Magazine just published an extraordinary profile of Kansas state government—what was left of it after Sam Brownback’s tenure.  Last November when a Democrat, Laura Kelly, took office, the new governor found herself assessing the damage from two terms of total austerity. Reporter, Alan Greenblatt describes a state unable to serve the public:

“To students of state politics, the failed Kansas experiment with deep cuts to corporate and income tax rates—which GOP Gov. Sam Brownback promised would lead to an economic flowering, and which instead led to anemic growth and crippling deficits—is well known.  What is not as well understood, even within Kansas, is the degree to which years of underfunding and neglect have left many state departments and facilities hollowed out…. All around Kansas government, there are stories about inadequate staffing…. Staff turnover in social services in general and at the state prisons has led to dozens of missing foster children and a series of prison uprisings… During the Brownback administration, from 2011 to 2018, prison staff turnover doubled, to more than 40 percent per year, while the prison population increased by 1,400 inmates, or 15 percent.  Guards have been burned out by mandatory over time and by pay scales that have failed to keep pace with increased insurance premiums and copays, let alone inflation. With inadequate and inexperienced staff, the prisons began employing a technique known as ‘collapsing posts,’ meaning some areas were simply left unguarded.”

The consequences for other states that tried to cut their way to prosperity were equally calamitous.

 Kansas has a State Supreme Court that pays attention to the State Constitution and cares about the future of the state, which rests on the educational opportunities of its children. Isn’t that novel these days!

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June 24, 2019
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KANSAS LEGISLATURE SHORTCHANGES PUBLIC SCHOOLS, ISSUE MOVES TO SUPREME COURT
     

KANSAS HIGH COURT TO STATE: SCHOOL FUNDING FORMULA ADEQUATE, NOW FUND IT

By Wendy Lecker

The Kansas Supreme Court has found the State’s most recent school funding formula to be adequate but will retain jurisdiction to make certain the State fully phases in required funding increases through 2023. The Court’s ruling, issued June 14, is the latest decision in Gannon v. State, Kansas’ long-running lawsuit challenging inadequate public education funding.

The Gannon case was filed in 2010, after the State walked away from implementing a funding remedy ordered by the Supreme Court in an earlier case, Montoy v. State. In a 2005 decision in Montoy, the Court threw out the State’s school finance system and ordered reforms to ensure Kansas school children adequate resources to give them a meaningful opportunity to achieve academic standards. The Montoy case ended in 2006, when the Court ruled that new legislation substantially met constitutional requirements.

In 2008, however, before the State fully implemented the Montoy remedy, it began making significant reductions in school funding. The Gannon lawsuit was filed in response.

The Gannon plaintiffs – parents, students and school districts – are represented by attorneys and Kansans Alan Rupe and John Robb. Alan and John, who also handled the Montoy v. State lawsuit, are among the nation’s most experienced plaintiffs’ lawyers in school funding cases.

In its initial Gannon decisions, the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed a lower court’s rulings that the State’s action’s resulted in inadequate and inequitable funding levels and ordered funding reforms.

The plaintiffs were forced to seek relief from the Supreme Court several times after the Legislature and Governor failed to enact the required reforms. In 2018, the Court ruled that additional funds provided by the State addressed funding equity but did not ensure adequate funding levels.

In its June 14 decision, the Court found the State had finally substantially complied with the constitutional requirement for funding adequacy. The Court noted the plaintiffs’ agreement that a $90 million increase was adequate for 2019-20. The Court also found the State provided good faith estimates for inflation to be phased-in through successive year increases through 2023.

Most important, the Court is retaining jurisdiction over the Gannon lawsuit to ensure the State follows through with the required funding increases. In a ruling similar to the 2009 New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Abbott v. Burke, the Kansas Supreme Court pointed to Kansas’ long-term resistance to providing adequate funding and noted its inherent power and responsibility to enforce judicial remedies, especially those relating to constitutional rights.

The Gannon litigation represents a powerful example of the critical role courts can play in advocacy efforts to ensure states fairly fund public education. The Gannon rulings have safeguarded the constitutional right to education against repeated efforts by the legislative and executive branches to severely reduce Kansas’ investment in the education of the state’s children.

No doubt, the Gannon plaintiffs and their experienced counsel will continue their vigilance to make certain lawmakers follow through on the latest court mandate to effectuate the education rights of children across the state.

Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center

Education Law Center Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel

Policy and Outreach Director

skrengel@edlawcenter.org

973-624-1815, x 24

 

 

Gary Rubinstein thought that Ohio paid more money than any other state to Teach for America, at the rate of $20,000 per recruit.

Chicken feed!

One state paid TFA $90,000 for each recruit! 

He writes:

A few days ago I wrote about how Texas pays TFA $5.5 million for 400 recruits, or about $15,000 per recruit.  Yesterday I wroteabout how Ohio paid $2 million to TFA for 100 recruits, or about $20,000 per recruit.  As TFA is in about 40 states, I wondered what state is paying the highest amount per recruit.  I got a tip today for one that I think cannot be beat.

The state of Kansas paid TFA $270,000 for a total of 3 recruits.  First they had a $520,000 contract for 12 recruits which would be about $40,000 per recruit.  But when TFA only delivered 3 recruits, they had to give back $250,000.  As a result, they ended up paying TFA a staggering $90,000 per recruit.

Under former Governor Brownback, Kansas cut taxes on the hope that low taxes would spur economic growth. It didn’t. It starved public services.

Kansans finally got fed up with the Republican strategy, and last November the voters elected Democratic state senator Laura Kelly, replacing the Trumpite Governor Kris Kobach.

Governor Kelly, cut this absurd expenditure for temp teachers and use the money to fund your public schools and your career teachers.

https://garyrubinstein.wordpress.com/2019/05/15/toto-i-have-a-feeling-were-not-in-the-state-that-paid-tfa-a-finders-fee-of-90k-per-recruit-anymore/

 

 

Kevin Bosworth, a teacher at Olathe East High School in Olathe, Kansas, wrote to tell me about a class discussion of grades and tests. A student shared her poem with the class, and Kevin shared it with me. The reformers and disrupters now say they are intrigued with social and emotional learning. Let them read this and see what they have learned.

 

Hello my name is worthless

Name number and date

State your class and hour

Let the rubric pick your fate

 

Your value as a human

Can be measured by percent

All that matters is the value

That the numbers represent

 

We promise that you matter

You’re more than just a grade

But you better score one hundred

Or else you won’t get paid

 

They require our attendance

We’re brain dead taking notes

So we can barf back up the knowledge

That they shove down our throats

 

Each human life is precious

And every childhood has worth

But if you fill in the wrong bubbles

Then you don’t belong on earth

 

They question our depression

They wonder why we’re stressed

When our futures are decided

Doing better on a test

 

They tell me that I’m gifted

That there’s no need to despair

But if you only read the numbers

I’m a living waste of air

 

I might think I have talents

But there’s no worth in art

Because it can’t be measured

By a number on a chart

 

The people say I’m flying

The numbers say I’ll crash

My letter grades ‘ll prove it

I’m worthless human trash

They use standardized procedures

To find the worth of kids

But I don’t fit in boxes

Without spilling out the lids

 

Some kids don’t fit the system

But differences can’t stay

They put us in the garbage

And throw it all away

 

The Kansas State Department of Education has money to burn (but not on tezchers’ Salaries), so it burned $270,000 to hire three inexperinced temporary teachers from TFA. The three will be gone in two years or so, meaning this was a very unwise expenditure.

Mercedes Schneider explains the folly here.

The real winner in this bad deal is TFA and its recruiter.

Note to state education departments: Don’t do stuff that makes you look foolish.

You read that right. Kansas is a state that has cut taxes and cut its education budget repeatedly and whose teachers are paid poorly. It is under court order to finance its schools adequately. You may recall that former Governor Sam Brownback imposed a far-right policy of cutting taxes to “grow the economy” while starving the schools and other public services. The experiment failed. Trump appointed him the
“Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.”

So now, because of low salaries, Kansas has teacher shortages. The remedy? A lavish contract with TFA to bring in temp teachers.


The Kansas Legislature agreed to pay education nonprofit Teach For America more than $500,000 this year for a pilot program to recruit 12 teachers to the state.

But the national organization only recruited three teachers for the state in 2018. All of them were placed in Kansas City, Kansas, where the local school district pays their salaries and benefits on top of another $3,000 per teacher per year to Teach For America.

Meanwhile, the state is still on the hook to pay the nonprofit $270,000 for training and recruiting teachers with no guarantee they will work in Kansas schools.

Mischel Miller, director of teacher licensure and accreditation at the Kansas State Department of Education, said the contract was intended to help fill a teacher shortage in the state.

“Our intention,” Miller said in an interview, “is that those dollars would be used for Kansas teachers.”

Yet the Kansas City, Kansas school district says it only hired three Teach For America instructors this year. Two other recruits started teaching in the district last year before Kansas hired the organization.

The state education department says Teach For America told the department it recruited all five of those teachers this year. The department is currently drafting a $270,000 contract to pay the organization.

A budget document from the Kansas Legislative Research Department dated Oct. 10 states, “Teachers will be paid a salary of $36,000.” But that money actually goes just to recruiting, training and placing each teacher.

That totals $180,000 from the state for recruiting five teachers, plus $80,000 to pay for the salary, benefits and travel expenses of a recruiter and $10,000 for one day of professional development. The rest of the money appropriated during the legislative session, totaling $250,000, will go back to the state’s general fund to be appropriated for the next fiscal year.