Log in

Editorial Roundup: Kansas


Kansas City Star. October 17, 2023.

Editorial: Kris Kobach wants to end the lawsuit keeping Kansas public schools funded. Awful idea

After a long period of turbulence, Kansas’ public schools have achieved a measure of financial stability in recent years. That isn’t because the often-stingy GOP-controlled Kansas Legislature — which is mandated by the state constitution to “make suitable provision” for public education — suddenly became more generous. Instead, that accomplishment is largely the result of a long-running lawsuit that compelled those legislators to finally fulfill their obligation.

Now the achievement is threatened.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach’s office last week asked the state Supreme Court to terminate the lawsuit, and with it the court’s oversight of education funding. Because “all planned funding has been phased in successfully,” Solicitor General Tony Powell wrote in a short brief, it is time for justices to “release jurisdiction” of the case.

That’s a bad idea.

History shows that when Kansas legislators are left to their own devices, they fall back on bad habits that underfund the state’s community and neighborhood schools. That is a particular danger now, when the Republicans who run the legislative branch have made plain their desire to divert tax dollars from public education to vouchers for home and private schooling.

Indeed, a key figure in the case is worried that Kobach’s request is a first step toward undermining public education in the state.

“’Opposed’ would be the understatement of the day,” said Jeff Gannon, a Wichita pastor whose family joined four school districts as plaintiffs when the lawsuit was filed in 2010. The case, known as Gannon v. Kansas, bears their name.

A little bit of background is helpful here. The Gannon case was actually the second big lawsuit this century against the state for its underfunding of public schools. The first, known as Montoy, was filed in 1999. It dragged on for seven years before the Kansas Supreme Court terminated the case, after the Republican-controlled legislature agreed to a funding increase.

The problem? State finances took a hit during the Great Recession a few years later, and legislators shirked their promises. Which is how we got the Gannon lawsuit a few years later.

That explains why the Kansas Supreme Court retained its jurisdiction in the case this time around. The court actually agreed in 2019 that the state — which had just increased funding to public schools by $90 million a year — was meeting its obligations. But justices wanted to ensure that legislators didn’t backtrack again. So they kept the Gannon lawsuit open.

It worked. Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, earlier this year signed a budget that fully funds public schools for the fifth year in a row. And K-12 test scores, long in decline, appear to have stabilized: Officials announced last week that fewer Kansas students are scoring at the lowest levels on state assessments.

The governor opposes Kobach’s request.

“Just as Kansas student test scores are on the rise, it makes no sense to undo all the progress Governor Kelly has made by fully funding our schools five years in a row and making it possible for students across the state to receive a quality education,” her spokesperson, Brianna Johnson, said in a statement.

Pastor Gannon agrees. His three children have aged out of K-12 schools, but he remains convinced that public education is a cornerstone of American democracy. Ending court oversight, he said, would empower those politicians whose interest is “in attacking public education and providing vouchers for people who attend private schools.”

“The issue, from my perspective, is that appropriate funding is at risk,” Gannon added.

We concur. The Kansas Legislature has given little sign of being fully committed to public education — indeed, it continues to massively underfund special education costs borne by schools despite the so-far unenforced requirements of state law. The evidence suggests Kansas students and their schools benefit most when legislators are under court supervision. The case should remain open.


Topeka Capital Journal. October 22, 2023.

Editorial: Use a bad experience to help others? Yep, that’s a Vicki Schmidt and Kansas thing to do.

Last week, Kansas Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt announced she is officially cancer-free following surgery and several radiation treatments.

Schmidt candidly wrote about her cancer treatment and shared her good news in a recent column in The Topeka Capital-Journal.

“No one can accurately prepare you for a battle with cancer, though I was inspired by the stories people would share with me about their own battles,” she wrote.

We’re glad to hear she’s in remission — not everyone is so lucky. Keeping that in mind, we think it’s important that we celebrate any time a Kansan or anyone gets this kind of news. So many of us have friends, family and neighbors who have battled cancer. It attacks indiscriminately. When someone beats it, that’s worth a cheer!

We’d also like to thank Schmidt for her candor about her experiences. It can’t be easy to battle cancer, let alone do so in a public manner as an elected official.

But from what Schmidt wrote, we’re confident she will use what she’s learned about dealing with insurance on that side to advocate for changes to the system that will benefit all Kansans. That’s such a Kansas thing to do — be resilient in the face of bad news and then use the experience to help others.

“This journey has taught me a lot about the fight it takes to navigate a serious health situation, the compassion needed to guide people through it and the headaches insurance can sometimes add to an already difficult situation,” Schmidt shared.

She also reminded readers to reach out to her office if they have an issue with insurance of any kind.

There’s no doubt that her experiences will inform her work as insurance commissioner. She’s seen firsthand how cancer can impact daily life and how insurance comes into play during treatments. She’s also been on the other side of it as a pharmacist.

Schmidt also seems keenly aware that the health care system in Kansas isn’t perfect and needs improvement. We believe this perspective will bring more empathy to her work, noting she probably already has that in spades working in health care.

Having those experiences will allow her to do her job of regulating insurance companies, educating consumers about their options and advocating for a strong competitive market.

So thank you, Commissioner Schmidt, for sharing and once again, congratulations.