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Every election is important, but this year may be the most critical election that Kansans have faced in recent history. There is a lot on the line, particularly for our public schools and our students.
To put it simply, the Party of Sam Brownback and Derek Schmidt threatens to wipe out all the progress that has been made in Kansas under Governor Laura Kelly.
We have Governor Laura Kelly to thank for putting a stop to extreme and unnecessary education policies seeking to interfere with children’s classroom learning. One bill in particular was passed this last session under the guise of parents’ rights. It would be more accurately described as the Politicians Know Best Act. The bill serves as an avenue for dark money funded organizations and politicians with extreme agendas to create chaos and interfere with teaching and learning, including restricting the content allowed to be taught. These politicians think they know better than parents and educators.
Governor Kelly protected parent and teacher partnerships when she vetoed the bill. The Legislature then narrowly failed to override the veto. (Check how your Representative voted on the underlying bill here or how they voted on the veto override here.)
The threat remains, though.
Since then, several House members who helped sustain the Governor’s veto were ousted in the August primary by those more willing to tow the party line. And, most recently, Derek Schmidt, alongside House K-12 Education Budget Chairwoman Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), Rep. Susan Estes (R-Wichita), and Senator Renee Erickson (R-Wichita), announced last week he wants this same bill to be passed in his first 100 days of office. Presumably, the bill in reference is the one initially introduced in the House K-12 Education Budget Committee, which can be found here.
However, Derek Schmidt doubled down on this over the weekend when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made a campaign stop for him in Johnson County. Given that Derek Schmidt lauded Ron DeSantis as the “only education governor in the country,” we could be facing a bill modeled after their “Don’t Say Gay” legislation as well as vouchers, book bans, and any number of bad education policies that have been enacted in Florida.
Remember Sam Brownback’s, “Look out Texas, here comes Kansas”? With Derek Schmidt it will be “Look out Florida, here comes Kansas.”
Florida started this school year with more than 10,000 public school position vacancies, including more than 6,000 certified teacher vacancies. A report out of Florida has also estimated $1.3 billion in funding diverted from public schools to private schools through their voucher program – equating to as much as 9% of total school district budgets.
Speaking of school budgets, they’re being threatened here in Kansas, too.
Governor Kelly has worked in a bipartisan manner to fully fund our schools to satisfy the requirements of the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon decision. While there is still work to be done in terms of special education funding, school budgets would be in worse shape without Governor Kelly’s historical accomplishments.
Next session, the legislature is tasked with providing funding at levels that reflect a three-year average of the consumer price index (CPI). This helps schools accommodate inflation. However, the majority party has made it clear that they have no interest in providing any additional funding to schools.
Case in point, Senator Renee Erickson (R-Wichita), who was recently seen at the press conference with Derek Schmidt, was quoted near the end of the 2022 legislative session as saying, “I have a big problem with giving school districts any more money.” The photo to the right shows her celebrating after a conference committee meeting where no additional special education money was added to the school funding bill.
The bottom line is that to protect Kansas public schools, we must re-elect Governor Kelly.
Kansas students cannot afford to go back to the Brownback era or worse – to Ron DeSantis’ Florida – and that’s exactly where Derek Schmidt will take us. Moreover, even if Derek Schmidt does not win, these issues will remain the legislative priorities of the majority party for the 2023 legislative session.
In a perfect world, these decisions should come down to what is truly best for our children. Sadly, that’s not the world we live in. And these pieces of legislation will continue to pass so long as the Party of Sam Brownback and Derek Schmidt holds the supermajority in the legislature.
That is why it is absolutely critical this election year you are not only registered to vote, but that you make a plan to vote for candidates who are transparent in their support for public education. You can check your voter registration at ksvotes.org and our full list of recommended candidates can be found here. Then, be sure encourage everyone you know to do the same. Lastly, if you’re interested in getting more involved in this election cycle, please sign up here.
Don’t forget to vote November 8!