Journey of a Superintendent: Is the Constitution for Some or for All?

Dr. Cynthia Lane, Superintendent of the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools, in the courtroom.

The Kansas Constitution – protections for some but not everyone!

How can I make such a statement? Well, I just spent four days sitting in a courtroom, hearing the attorney representing our state suggest, imply, and at times directly say that not all students will achieve, that our standards are too high, and that some kids just won’t make it – and that’s just ok. The experience was intense, and at times, emotionally wrenching.

Our district was subjected to the attack that our expectations of “success for all of our students” are just not going to happen. It was directly said that our mission of “inspiring excellence” was unrealistic and that we (I) would never be satisfied with our funding, and would continue to ask for more and more. The state’s lead attorney said that the reason we were involved in the lawsuit was to pursue unattainable goals. He suggested that we substitute the word “perfection” for “excellence” as the chance of reaching our standards was unattainable. Really? Is it wrong to want every child to have access to a quality education? Is it wrong to expect that our Constitution, which specifically says  “ . . . the legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement . . . and shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state” means every citizen?

It’s not about wanting more and more funding. It’s about providing the services and supports needed so that everyone has a chance to obtain the expectations outlined in Kansas law, and a chance to earn a piece of the American dream! The American dream for some, but in Kansas, apparently, we don’t mean everyone.

Last evening I heard Chad Taylor, district attorney for Shawnee County (Topeka) speak. He said how ironic it was that the school finance trial was taking place in the very courtroom in which children and youth are prosecuted for crimes and where parents, and the education system’s failure of our children, is never more apparent. He went on to report that the state of Kansas spends $52,000 a year to maintain an incarcerated individual, but refuses to provide suitable funding to educate children. Mr. Taylor’s facts stunned the crowd.

What we are asking for in the lawsuit is adequate and equitable funding to educate all children across the state. We are not grabbing for more and more money. What does it say about our state’s values when the state is willing to $52,000 a year to put a person in prison, and yet we are spending, on average, about 10 percent of that to educate our children? Maybe we are getting what we are willing to pay for . . . Consider it. It’s up to us.

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5 Responses to Journey of a Superintendent: Is the Constitution for Some or for All?

  1. Brian Dolezal says:

    Well said. It is our role in this society to create the conditions of opportunity for all children, not just those born in affluent zip codes. I would invite any politician that speaks against our students to come into any of our classrooms, look our students and teachers in the eye and say they do not matter or are expendable. I would invite them to experience the challenges of teaching in Kansas City, Kansas. It is the reason that I cannot leave this district, the challenge is too great to walk away from. With great challenge comes great responsibility, passion, intensity, and reward.

  2. Dave Oland says:

    I am not surprised at all. This is part of a national right-wing trend to attack public schools, public employees, and our unions such as NEA. Let’s not leave race out of it either!

  3. otis bryant says:

    I think that those educational politicians, should experience 1 night in the home of the children that we serve and see if that changes their opinions. For most educators, everyday demands us to have a new dawning for each child. Somedays it is so difficult to reach them, because they have been up all nite, due to family issues, intruders, and many other situations. Many of the students parents dont have more than a 6th grade education, so that are not up to date with the current curriculum being taught on a much higher order. So, before we are condemned, walk in our shoes and then you’ll see why we are not achieving. Children, want to learn….They want to be successful….So, give us the funding we need, and introduce a plan to put our school systems in the now….

  4. otis bryant says:

    I think that those educational politicians, should experience 1 night in the home of the children that we serve and see if that changes their opinions. For most educators, everyday demands us to have a new dawning for each child. Somedays it is so difficult to reach them, because they have been up all nite, due to family issues, intruders, and many other situations. Many of the students parents dont have more than a 6th grade education, so that are not up to date with the current curriculum being taught on a much higher order. So, before we are condemned, walk in our shoes and then you’ll see why we are not achieving. Children, want to learn….They want to be successful….So, give us the funding we need, and introduce a plan to put our school systems in the now….

  5. tmck says:

    Years ago as a young undergrad, I worked for a research group investigating the impact of police visibility in communities as a deterrent to crime. I attended a convention, that at the time forecasted the tremendous challenges that our society faced with the overstressed prison system, and the system’s inability to incarcerate all offenders. The theme of that convention was “the crisis in American prisons,” and that was 30 years ago. Today, that crisis is a reality that challenges us on many levels, economically, morally, and emotionally.
    I would venture to say that today’s prisons are filled with some of the children whose schools failed them 30 years ago. And we are paying dearly, but not so dearly as those whose lives were derailed and thwarted. Research tells us that projected prison populations are based on reading success in elementary school. The link between education and a viable, equitable, and free society is irrefutable.
    Dr. Lane, you have fought passionately and tirelessly for one of our country’s basic freedoms-the right to an education, but it appears you are facing a stubborn, narrow-minded, mono-visioned goliath. You need an army of believers and supporters, and I believe you have that in KCKPS.
    What can we do? What should we do?

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