Archives for category: Kansas

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

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!

June 24, 2019
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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

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.



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.

After the 2010 elections, when anti-tax Tea Party Republicans swept many states, they had a chance to perform a radical experiment. They bet that slashing corporate taxes and individual taxes would be a shot in the arm to their economy, creating new jobs and more revenue. They were wrong. The deep tax cuts reduced public revenues, harmed public services, especially education, and did not produce economic growth.

This article in The Nation explains it.

“Oklahoma isn’t typically a big-spending state, even under Democratic governors. But until eight years ago, Democrats held most statewide offices and maintained some power in the Legislature. Then, in 2010, a number of Tea Party candidates were elected to office. The GOP increased its majorities in the Legislature and, after winning the governor’s race, controlled the entire statehouse for the first time in Sooner history.

“Oklahoma wasn’t the only state that got a fresh coat of red paint. Republicans had full control of just 14 state legislatures in 2010, while Democrats held power in 27. After the November elections that year, Republicans held majority power in 25, including Oklahoma.

“The newly empowered Republicans didn’t sit on their hands; they got to work implementing an extreme anti-tax Tea Party agenda. But now the damage those decisions have wreaked is becoming abundantly clear—not just in underfunded schools and crumbling infrastructure, but in lagging economies and angry constituents. States are supposed to be the “laboratories of democracy,” in the famous phrase of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, putting new ideas to the test. But the Tea Party experiment of drastically cutting taxes in the hopes of sparking economic growth has blown up in lawmakers’ faces.

“Oklahoma legislators had already reduced income taxes back in the mid-2000s, and an amendment added to the state constitution in 1992 makes it all but impossible to raise taxes, requiring approval from a three-quarters supermajority of lawmakers. Lowering them requires only a simple majority.

“The Tea Party experiment of drastically cutting taxes in the hopes of sparking economic growth has blown up in lawmakers’ faces.

“But the politics after 2011 were different. “The Republicans swept,” said David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a progressive think tank. “We never had a Republican governor with a Republican legislature.”

“State lawmakers came “out of the gate in 2011 with a pretty regressive, large-scale tax-cut plan,” said Meg Wiehe, deputy director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a nonprofit, tax-focused research group. Led by Governor Fallin, the Oklahoma GOP wanted to scrap the income tax entirely—a plan that was the brainchild of conservative economist Arthur Laffer, the self-described “father of supply-side economics.”

If we lived in a rational world, everyone would agree that we learned an important lesson. Draconian tax cuts benefit the wealthy and do not produce economic growth. They require government to starve essential services. Unfortunately we do not live in a rational world.

Teachers and parents are angry. Will their anger suffice to throw the bums out?

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas nearly bankrupted the State with his theory that cutting taxes would cause a huge economic boom. Taxes were cut but there was no boom. Meanwhile, the schools of Kansas were underfunded.

The state Supreme Court ordered the legislature to fix school funding. The legislature tinkered. Back and forth. Yesterday the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the legislature again to meet their constitutional obligation to fund the schools.

“The ruling also ordered a fairer distribution of state funding, to ensure that students in poor districts have the same educational opportunities as their peers in wealthier communities.

“The majority of justices supported giving the Legislature until June, but no more time than that, for a final fix on state funding of schools.

“That will give lawmakers, who will reconvene in January, a full regular session to try to come up with a school-finance law that meets court requirements, negating the need for a special session.

“The court is ordering that a new funding law be crafted before April 30 so there’s time for the justices to review it before the annual budget and the schools’ money runs out.

“Once legislation is enacted, the State will have to satisfactorily demonstrate to this court by June 30, 2018, that its proposed remedy brings the state’s education financing system into compliance with Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution regarding the violations identified, i.e., both adequacy and equity,” the court ruling said.

“After that date we will not allow ourselves to be placed in the position of being complicit actors in the continuing deprivation of a constitutionally adequate and equitable education owed to hundreds of thousands of Kansas school children.”

“Three of the seven justices – Lee Johnson, Eric Rosen and Dan Biles – wrote or joined in dissents saying they want the Legislature to have to move faster.

“I would direct the State to tell us no later than the end of this year precisely how the legislature intends to fix its years-long breach of the Kansas Constitution,” Johnson wrote.

“The case, called Gannon v. Kansas, has been going on since November of 2010.

“On Monday, the court specifically held that a school-finance law the Legislature passed earlier this year is unconstitutional.”

Read more here: