Now that Republicans control both houses of Congress, Americans should brace themselves for a serious Koch-style assault on revenue and government agencies. Last year, Mitch McConnell told Kansas Governor Sam Brownback that Republicans were panting to enact a Koch-Kansas economic assault on America that Brownback imposed by giving the rich monumental tax breaks at the expense of the state government and residents. At the time, McConnell swooned over Brownback’s trickle-down massacre and told him “It’s exactly what we want to do here in Washington, but we can’t do it yet only controlling the House.” With control of the House and Senate, Republicans can proceed with the same reckless abandon for the government and it is probable that like Kansas, public education is in for some seriously major funding cuts.
For the second time in six months, a Kansas court panel ruled that the state is still not spending enough money on education to “provide a suitable education for children.” In June, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state must increase funding for public K-12 schools to comply with Kansas law mandating that public schools are funded at constitutionally required levels. However, as is their habit, Brownback’s Republicans disregarded the Kansas Constitution and Supreme Court ruling and slashed funding for the state’s public schools to both provide tax cuts for the wealthy and keep their population ignorant. Keeping the population dirt-stupid worked nicely for Brownback’s re-election; particularly after his Koch brother trickle-down tax cutting scheme demolished the state’s economy.
According to the latest ruling against trickle-down Brownback, Kansas is failing miserably to spend enough money on public schools to provide a suitable education for every child. The three-judge panel’s ruling said, “We found the Kansas K-12 school financing formula constitutionally inadequate in its present failure to implement the necessary funding to sustain a constitutionally adequate education as a matter of current fact as well as the precedent facts that supported the Montoy decisions. That is still our opinion.”
The Montoy decision refers to a 2006 school funding lawsuit, and several others including the earlier Supreme Court ruling, that the judges said informed them beyond a shadow of a doubt that “yes, money spent on education makes a difference.” According to evidence, the state needs to increase its education spending at least $548 million a year to comply with Kansas’ Constitutional requirement. Brownback is going to appeal the District Court panel’s decision to the Kansas Supreme Court.
The governor’s spokesperson, Eileen Hawley, released a statement on the decision saying “We will review today’s decision carefully. The Governor will work with legislative leaders to determine the best path forward.” However, Brownback and the GOP-dominated Legislature will hardly even attempt to comply with this latest ruling any more than the last because it will jeopardize Brownback’s aggressive trickle down tax cuts for the rich and elimination of corporate taxation enacted according to the Koch brothers and trickle down guru Arthur Laffer’s directives. Laffer, like the Kochs and Brownback, claim that it is important to cut the state’s revenue stream in order to increase state revenue and create a jobs bonanza. Since the Koch-Brownback tax cuts for the rich and corporations, Kansas is hemorrhaging revenue, lagging the rest of the nation in job creation, has suffered several credit downgrades, and according to many Republicans is facing bankruptcy in less than two years. Credit rating agencies concur and have enacted several concurrent downgrades.
Public school officials also released their own statements on the decision. Wichita Public Schools superintendent John Allison said, “An educated workforce is key to Kansas’ economic success. I am pleased to see the court’s affirmation that an adequately-funded education is of vital importance to Kansas. While we won’t immediately know the impact of the ruling, we do believe today’s court decision is a great one for today’s students and the future of our state.” Dodge City Superintendent Alan Cunningham said, “In order to accomplish the goal of making every child college or career ready, we need appropriate resources to do our jobs. We continue to have faith that the Kansas legislature will work to ensure that every Kansas child has access to an adequate and fully funded formula for education.”
Kansas public school educators have other problems on their plates as a result of Brownback’s $1.1 billion unfunded tax cuts for the rich besides the inadequate, and unconstitutional, cuts to education. On Tuesday, Kansas education officials reported that the number of homeless students in the state’s schools continues to increase at alarming levels due to low wages and pathetic jobs situation. According to the Kansas State Department of Education, there were nearly 10,400 homeless children attending public schools last year; a thousand more than a year earlier. In fact, Wichita and Kansas City public schools reported there were increases in homeless students of 45% and 20% respectively over the course of just one year.
The coordinator of the education department’s child homelessness program, Tate Toedman, said that Kansas families are taking longer to recover from homelessness than in the past due to the state’s poor economic situation, poverty wages, and lack of jobs. All schools are required by the federal government to keep track of homeless students to receive support and service programs designed specifically to keep children in school. Kansas is so broke, though, that after Brownback’s $1.1 billion unfunded gift to the wealthy there are insufficient funds to keep homeless shelters open.
As an example, one homeless shelter specifically for families with school-aged children in southeastern Kansas had to close its doors in July, and it is all down to the increasing state budget shortfall directly resulting from Brownback’s tax cuts for the rich. The CHOICES Family Emergency Shelter had provided a place to live for 350 homeless people every year, most of whom are children. The closure is another victim of the state budget shortfall that is so severe that even after cutting homeless shelter funding by half for all of 2014, Kansas could not afford to spend $100,000 to keep the shelter open for the rest of the year; but Brownback and Republicans will not do anything to “jeopardize” the epic tax cuts for the rich and corporations, including Koch Industries and its libertarian owners.
It is important to note that Republicans, including Brownback, held up Kansas and its unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy-elite and corporations as the idealized Republican economic plan for all America to follow. One Kansas Republican even admitted that one of the primary goals of the Koch-Brownback economic plan was cutting government down to size and they have been successful in slashing the state public education system to unconstitutional levels as well as cutting public retirement accounts to pay for the tax cuts.
Despite the abject failure in Kansas, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Brownback “It’s exactly what we want to do in Washington,” and now that they control both chambers of Congress, it is certainly what they will attempt. The only thing standing between the entire nation, the federal government, and public education going the way of Kansas is President Obama’s veto pen. Because without him as a firewall, the entire nation will become the Koch brothers’ vision of America and will look exactly like Kansas.