We recently received a letter – commentary, a spool of anguish – from Aaron Estabrook, of Manhattan, distressed at Gov. Sam Brownback’s assault on Kansas public schools, his turning the screws against our educational system.
Estabrook is a member of the Manhattan-Ogden School Board, elected in April 2013 to a four-year term. In his commentary, Aaron said Brownback had crossed the state a year ago seeking re-election, telling people repeatedly that he would fully fund all-day kindergarten in Kansas.
Aaron’s daughter, Sophia, who will be five years old in August, is about to enter kindergarten in Manhattan.
“Ever since the “K” was placed in K-12 Public Schools, it has been funded at a half time rate,” Estabrook said. “Nearly all Kansas schools teach kindergarten all day, requiring local school districts to pick up the tab on the other half. Gov. Brownback reneged on his promise.”
The governor, notorious for turning down federal aid and grants, has added pre-school funding to a scrap list that includes Medicaid expansion, the Affordable Care Act, transportation funding and more.
“Last summer, school districts across the state put together an application to apply for ‘Pre-School Development’ grants from the U.S. Dept. of Education,” Estabrook said. “America was about to invest hundreds of millions in preschool or pre-K programs, and Kansas educators wanted to be ready.
“Then last fall, Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application, the final step in the process; $226 million was awarded to other states in December and Kansas would have been poised to receive between $15-20 million for pre-school development, but one man stood in the way of more than 40,000 four year olds receiving that opportunity. Pre K-12 should be the standard for Kansas…”
He noted for example that for the last 16 years, every child in Oklahoma has been guaranteed a pre-school education.
Estabrook said that the governor’s plan to eliminate state income taxes for the upper bracket “set the stage for the assault on public education…
“Over 40,000 Kansas children will enter kindergarten in August. My daughter is one of them,” Estabrook wrote. “On a recent trip to a local hardware store, she joined me with a few dollars she had earned doing chores around our home. To my amazement, she wanted to buy a small ladder. Her rationale was that she could do more chores and earn more if she could reach higher.
“Today, in Kansas, our state government has created a system of taxation that allows for those who have climbed the economic ladder to pull it up from behind and relish in their treasure.
“To this day we have no clear answer why Gov. Brownback refused to sign the application to compete for those (pre-school development) funds with the rest of America,” Estabrook continued. “No economic logic makes sense, so we must conclude that it was an ideological decision.
“Soon our Supreme Court will rule on the adequacy and equity of our public schools. Evidence points to underfunding, complicated by the extreme ideological decisions by lawmakers who want to pull that economic ladder up from behind them.
“I personally have witnessed the impact of extreme ideology as a soldier in Afghanistan. My generation has fought two wars and toppled two governments that were built on extreme ideology. Coming back to Kansas from those wars I never expected to be in the midst of another battle being instigated by extreme ideologues in Topeka. One thing is certain; this generation will not tolerate it. We have sacrificed too much and those extremists in Topeka need to understand that what they have done is simply wake a sleeping giant in form of parents, educators, and moderates all across our state.”