A few weeks ago, I picked up Caroline from school on her last day of kindergarten. I watched as she hugged her teacher and said farewell to many of her classmates for the summer. I was feeling a number of emotions at that time, but the one I felt the most was gratitude. Gratitude for a truly amazing teacher who got her elementary school experience off to a great start. Gratitude for the caring team of professionals working every day with a diverse population of children. And gratitude for the top-notch public school she attends.
It is not getting any easier to teach kids. More and more children live in poverty. Many children arenít receiving the kind of support they need at home. And for too many, the only support, structure and discipline they receive is at school.
This week, the Kansas Legislature will convene in a special session to once again try to meet their constitutional obligation to fund our public schools. They have failed over and over again, and now the stakes are quite high. If they donít get it right, the doors to our public schools might be closed in August.
Many legislators have been displaying an unbelievable amount of arrogance as they criticize the Kansas Supreme Courtís ruling and attempt to deflect blame. However, the Kansas Constitution places an affirmative duty on the Legislature and the governor to properly fund our public schools and to do so fairly ó whether the school is in Johnson County or Johnson City.
I was in the Legislature in 2005 when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled another school funding mechanism unconstitutional. That year, the Legislature worked together to find a solution. Unfortunately, the Legislature never followed through on those promises. And then last year, the Legislature made the problem worse by throwing out the new, constitutional funding formula and replacing it with a block-grant funding scheme.
Surprising no one, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the new formula unconstitutional. And yet again, the Legislature was given the opportunity to fix the problem. And once again, they failed. Instead of a real solution, they chose gimmicks and accounting tricks.
There is an easy way out of this mess. The Legislature must equalize the funding formula at a cost of approximately $40 million. But as most of you know, due to a failed tax experiment, the state of Kansas is flat broke. Chances are lawmakers either will ignore their duty to fund schools or attempt to steal the money from elsewhere. Kansans should be very wary of their tactics.
Given the rhetoric in recent weeks, Iím keeping my expectations low. I know my Democrat and moderate Republican friends will fight for our schools and our kids. But they need more friends to get things done.
That is why Iím spending my summer and fall helping to elect candidates who value our schools ó candidates who understand their constitutional obligations to Caroline and the many thousands of schoolchildren looking forward to returning to school in August. Please join me in this fight. Get involved in local races and make your voice heard.