A Kansas Education

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

This is a grim joke, I admit: Closing schools early in order to underwrite tax breaks for the wealthy is an exercise in building character.

I have a daughter; it is unclear if “character building” has any significance to her generation beyond a Calvin & Hobbes punch line.

In this photo taken Sept. 6, 2014, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback speaks in Hutchinson, Kansas. The writing is on the wall for gay marriage bans in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina after federal appeals courts that oversee those states have made clear that keeping gay and lesbian couples from marrying is unconstitutional. But officials in the three states are refusing to allow same-sex couples to obtain marriage licenses without a court order directing them to do so. It could be another month or more before the matter is settled. In a political campaign debate Monday, Brownback vowed to defend his state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. A federal court hearing is scheduled for Friday.(AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)Controversial Republican economist Arthur Laffer was recently asked about his handiwork in Kansas. It was Laffer who crafted Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical – and radically unsuccessful – economic experiment, which has failed to deliver on its promises and which has ruined Kansas’ finances.

“Kansas,” Laffer said two weeks ago, “is doing fine.”

“Fine” is a subjective word, though when a state finds that some of its schools don’t have enough money to keep the doors open, it’s safe to say everything isn’t “fine.”

Six school districts in Kansas will close early this year, following budget cuts signed in March by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Two school districts, Concordia Unified School District and Twin Valley Unified School District, announced earlier this month that they would end the year early because they lacked the funds to keep the schools open. This week, four more districts confirmed they would also shorten their calendars, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.

One superintendent told the Topeka Capital-Journal he doesn’t want to permanently change the school calendar, but at least for this year, budget concerns made it necessary to wrap up early.


Two notes:

• Remember that Arthur Laffer is the man who invented the “Laffer Curve” underpinning trickle-down economics, and despite the observable, repeated failures of its application, feels vindicated as an economist because Gov. Brownback won re-election.

• It could be worse; we haven’t yet reached the bit about walking six miles to school in the snow, uphill both ways, with only bread bags for shoes. And that’s the thing; while “the kids these days” might not know the same kind of hardship their grandparents survived, it also seems strange to romanticize that kind of deprivation. Then again, it’s Middle America we’re talking about, and traditional values, so stay tuned. After all, we’ve already heard about how exploiting child labor (ahem!) builds character. (They call it a “training wage”.)

We ought not be surprised that Kansas is now seeking to raise a generation of undereducated, easily-exploited laborers; this is, after all, Laffer territory. Call it a “traditional family value” of “Middle America”.


Benen, Steve. “More Kansas schools forced to close”. msnbc. 23 April 2015.

McArdle, Megan. “When Bread Bags Weren’t Funny”. Bloomberg View. 29 January 2015.

Moore, Stephen. “Why not boost teen employment with a training wage?”. The Heritage Foundation. 30 June 2014.

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