Arthur Laffer

The Kansas Way (Brownback Note Downbeat Mix)

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) speaks, in undated, uncredited photo.

“In the next three years I think we’ll have maybe the worst teacher shortage in the country―I think most of that is self-inflicted.”

Tim Hallacy

In November we learned that “Kansas will face a $279 million budget shortfall by July”; by April the crisis began taking shape as some school districts faced an early ending to the school year under such financial pressures as reality brought to bear. And all of this really is intentional; the economic hypothesis is validated, in the eyes of its creator, Arthur Laffer, because people will vote for it. The shortfall, of course, was unexpectedly larger than estimates tailored to make the destruction of Kansas government palatable had suggested, but even faced with this grim reality, Kansas voters re-elected Gov. Sam Brownback (R), asking for more of the same.

Rebecca Klein of Huffington Post explains how residents of the Sunflower State are now getting their wish:

Kansas school superintendent Alan Cunningham has been involved with hiring teachers for the past 35 years. In that time, he has never had a harder time filling positions than this year.

Qualified applicants for job openings in elementary schools or physical education “used to be a dime a dozen,” Cunningham said. Now Cunningham’s school district, Dodge City School District, is starting the school year with teachers in those positions who are not fully certified.

“We’ve had to go to substitute teachers,” said Cunningham.

Cunningham’s predicament is one superintendents throughout his state are facing. In Kansas, where teacher pay is low and schools are underfunded, hundreds of teaching positions throughout the state are still vacant just a few weeks before the start of the school year.

“This is the first year we’ve experienced a shortage as significantly as we are this year,” said Cunningham, referring specifically to his district. “We’ve had to combine some classrooms where we weren’t able to find a teacher and made class sizes significantly higher than we’d like them to be.”

Considering the conditions facing educators in Kansas, it is not an unlikely spot for a teacher shortage. Teachers in Kansas have some of the lowest average pay in the country. In 2014, the legislature voted to cut back on job protections for teachers that gave them certain due process rights if they faced dismissal. In June 2015, a three-judge district court panel said that the state’s school funding system is unconstitutional, in a ruling that was soon kicked up to the state Supreme Court. As a result of this funding system and pervasive tax cuts throughout the state that led to extreme revenue losses, several districts throughout the state had to end the 2014-2015 school year early because they did not have the money to stay open.

Capitalizing on the unrest among teachers, one school district in the neighboring state of Missouri even put up billboards in Kansas attempting to recruit dissatisfied teachers. Amid all this, an aging workforce has led to an increase in teacher retirements.

As one educator, Superintendent Tim Hallacy of Silver Lake Schools, explained, “In the next three years I think we’ll have maybe the worst teacher shortage in the country―I think most of that is self-inflicted.”

It is also by design.

This is the Kansas way.

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Associated Press. “Kansas faces $279 million budget shortfall by summer”. KSN. 10 November 2014.

Klein, Rebecca. “Kansas Underfunded Education And Cut Tenure. Now It Can’t Find Enough Teachers To Fill Classrooms.” The Huffington Post. 31 July 2015.

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.

(Benen)

(more…)

The Shadow Over Kansas

The Capitol of Kansas, in Topeka.

Kansas will face a $279 million budget shortfall by July, far worse than state officials had thought before a new revenue forecast Monday that will force Gov. Sam Brownback and legislators to consider spending cuts.

Associated Press

The news only gets worse from there, you know.

Look, we are an American community.

Quick, someone tell the folks in Kansas. Wait, what’s that? They don’t care?

I realize Brownback has an “R” after his name, but the fact that Kansans actually re-elected this guy, despite the option of a credible and experienced challenger, and despite the disaster of his signature issue, is kind of amazing.

Of course, let’s not forget Art Laffer, the Republican economist who helped shape Brownback’s plan, who’s perhaps best known for his “Laffer Curve” which says tax cuts can pay for themselves. He, of course, feels vindicated, not because the Kansas plan is failing, but because Brownback won re-election regardless of his performance.

(Benen)

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)As tempting as it might seem to rub our hands in curious satisfaction and chuckle deep in our throats like supervillains about to watch mindless, ant-like humanity destroy itself, the simple fact is that we’re Americans, not supervillains. And what Kansans are doing to themselves ought to be their own business, except, like masturbation, it becomes a problem when you visit your kinks on other people who don’t want anything to do with the mess you’re making.

And that’s the thing. Not every Kansan stays in Kansas, and the longer this goes on the more and more noticeable it will be when the young generation shows up in other states, with less education, and suffers in the job market. That is to say, even if we find some justification to say we’re just fine with the Sunflower State willfully squandering the futures of its youngest generation, everybody else is going to have to take up the slack.

We can’t just build a border fence and pen them in. That’s just not what Americans do.

But at the same time, these are the United States of America, after all. If general decency is insufficient, then think of the inconvenience this sort of thing might cause you in a future not so distant.

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Associated Press. “Kansas faces $279 million budget shortfall by summer”. KSN. 10 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Brownback’s economic failures start to look even worse”. msnbc. 11 November 2014.