There are moments in life that affirm my belief that if you stay true to your principles, good things will happen. I have learned that many times, just when it seems that disappointment and darkness will win the day, something changes, and a light of hope begins to flicker.
Kansas has been in darkness, since we moved away from the tenants of our constitution that require “equity” in educational opportunity through similar tax effort. This past Thursday, when the Legislature convened for the Special Session, we had a chance to move into the light, by ensuring our school finance system was amended to meet the equity requirement. As the session began, it was not at all clear that this would be the outcome.
The special session began with budget committees in both the House and Senate introducing identical bills, which would have reduced funding for all Kansas schools in order to find the money to provide equity. While a number of districts testified in favor of that plan, the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS) held firm to the principle that the $38 million necessary to provide equity should NOT come from school districts. Our stance was not one of stubbornness, but rather anchored in our belief that to be in compliance with the Supreme Court’s admonishment to not harm adequacy, additional investment was required.
Throughout the session, educators, parents, and advocates from around the state came together to support our legislators. A rally was held outside of the Capitol, with voices from across the state encouraging action to create equity and keep schools open. I witnessed House and Senate members crossing party lines, engaged in collegial conversations, and exerting real effort to examine all possible options. It soon became clear that there were alternative revenue sources available that would allow for additional investment in the education of our children. As the session progressed, the dark mood changed to one of hope and expectation.
I am so pleased to report that the Kansas Senate and the Kansas House passed and sent to Governor Brownback legislation that will equitably distribute money for public schools in Kansas, and when the Governor signs it, it prevents a school shutdown!
This session began with darkness and ended with Kansans standing in the light! Let us learn from this experience. When we work together, and stay true to our principles, good things are the result. “It’s Up to Us!”