Governor Sam Brownback is a man of many promises. He's made promises on jobs, schools, higher education, personal income, Kansas kids reading schools, and even population. From day one, Brownback lamented population trends in rural Kansas and vowed to fix the issue.
According to Gov. Brownback, Kansans fled the state under former Governors Graves, Sebelius, and Parkinson, seeking lower taxes and less economic interference. Brownback's solution: the same solution he always proposes - income tax breaks that drastically favor the super rich and big business.
Brownback sold his tax plan as a salve for jobs, economic growth, and population, claiming that his tax plan would bring over 35,000 new residents to Kansas in addition to the natural population growth that was predicted to occur.
It's been two years since Brownback made this bold projection and over a year since his radical tax plan went into effect. Surely, tax-sensitive individuals from neighboring states like Missouri have started streaming over the border thanks to Brownback's tax plan.
Or not. Turns out Brownback's bold claim was nothing more than another broken promise. Yesterday, the Census Bureau released new population numbers for Kansas that showed not only has Kansas not gained 35,000 new residents, it's actually lost over 10,000 residents to other states since 2010.
But why would any right thinking Kansan leave the state under Brownback's leadership? Maybe because income tax policy plays little role in people's decisions to relocate while things like jobs, schools, family, and climate matter far more. The exact things Brownback has undercut while governor (well, except for climate though the Kansas Senate is doing its best to change that).
Contrary to his shiny new campaign ads, education clearly is not a priority under Brownback. While other states have made investments in education after recovering from the Great Recession, Brownback and his far-right Kansas Legislature have continued cutting funding to K-12 and higher education.
Kansas is also one of only a handful of states to cut higher education funding during the recovery, joining West Virginia, Louisiana, Wyoming and Wisconsin as one of the five states to cut higher education funding this fiscal year.
And while other states restored deep cuts to K-12 funding following the Great Recession, Gov. Brownback instead chose to pass the biggest tax cut in Kansas history, putting millionaires before Kansas kindergarteners. Not that it's helped at all. You can see the trajectory of education funding under Brownback in the accompanying graph - down, down, and down.
For decades Kansas has prided itself on strong schools and reasonable government. A common refrain heard across Kansas is that while we don't have mountains or beaches, we do have great public schools. Increasingly, the actions of Brownback and his fellow anti-education elected officials has damaged our reputation, both for common sense government and strong schools.
In the end, we don't think it matters that much if Kansas doesn't have beaches or mountains. We've prospered without these geographic features. No the key to restoring Kansas is guaranteeing that Kansas doesn't have something else: Sam Brownback as our governor.
During that time, far-right legislators have proposed four separate education reform plans, all of which manage to cut overall spending to schools and tie equity fixes to controversial, unpopular school "reform" proposals. Some legislators have gone so far to complain about how fixing the school funding mess they made will be a real chore because Republicans just don't want to spend money on education.
And Gov. Brownback? He's been missing in action from day one, trying to avoid responsibility and political fallout. No plan, no leadership, and no accountability.
This neglect might explain why Game On for Kansas Schools, a nonpartisan grassroots organization who advocates for Kansas schools, is marching on Topeka to raise awareness about school funding cuts and far-right school privatization efforts. Staring this morning, Game On members are walking the 60 miles from Merriam to the capitol building.
Last year, Game On member Heather Ousley made the sixty mile walk by herself. This year, she's joined by five other members who share her goal of preserving Kansas public schools. "We are walking for every kid in Kansas," Ousley said. "We will not sit idly by in the face of funding cuts and so called reforms."
Other similarly concerned Kansans are invited to join the Game On members to walk The Final Mile on Monday, March 31st. The marchers will be leaving from the Supreme Court building at 1:30 and walking to the capitol building. You can also follow their progress on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
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