Kansans have elected a new governor, Laura Kelly, but the shade and soul of the old one ‒ Sam Brownback ‒ remain in Topeka. Kelly, a Democrat, was elected for her pledge to help the state recover its dignity. She hoped to stem the bleeding at the treasury, help Kansas climb further from the abyss of government bankruptcy. Brownback, a hard-right Republican, had insisted on abolishing the state income tax; en route, he devised schemes to borrow more and more, to cut budgets, raid agency funds, privatize state programs – his Glide Path to Zero (taxes), all a failure. A litany of ruin threatened, leaving starved schools and strapped law enforcement, colleges gasping for air, hospitals shuttered, highways cracked, pensions throttled and more. A turnaround began in 2017 and continued last year, enlivened by fresh Republican legislators and agreeable Democrats. But while the state was voting for Kelly and more change, Republicans were replacing their own with more hard-line legislators, devotees of the Brownback way. One step toward resurrection with Kelly, two steps back. Hard Republicans rule yet in the House (84-41) and in the Senate (28-11 and one Independent). Where this imbalance will take us is not yet clear. But it must not lead to another protracted battle over local school finance – or to any amendment to remove the courts from participating. The Kansas Supreme Court says the legislature has short-changed school funding for nearly a decade while pursuing self-inflicted financial calamity; income taxes for the rich and select businesses were slashed with no viable plan to replace the lost revenue. The court ordered legislators to provide adequate state aid for a system neglected, unconstitutionally, since 2009. Rather than fix school finance, Brownback and his legislators first attacked the courts, accused judges of meddling in politics, of “advocacy,” of “usurping” legislative power. The governor and his followers proposed that the current system of judicial selection be replaced with the direct election of all state judges. Judges aren’t accountable to taxpayers, they said, and should be required to run for office. But Kansas has such a system. In 14 of the state’s 31 judicial districts, judges are elected. In 17 districts, they are selected by a lay-lawyer nominating process that ends with appointment by the governor. Half of the state’s 218 district court judges are elected. The other 109 are selected by nomination and appointment. With Brownback gone and with the 2016 elections inspiring a somewhat more moderate Legislature, there were whispers that adequate school finance may be in the works. A 2018 study from Texas A&M seemed to backfire for the Republicans who had ordered it, for it confirmed the need for more money for schools. Rather than face the challenge, Republicans ordered an amendment to the state Constitution that banned any court oversight on school funding. It also removed the governor from the process, creating a one-branch government for school finance. By that amendment, only the legislature would decide spending for local schools. No courts, no governor would have a say. The plan fizzled, but today a revival is in the works, led by House Speaker Ron Ryckman and Senate President Susan Wagle. They ignore both obligation and history. The courts prompted the historic education reforms of 1992, the two parties worked to create and pass the legislation, and Gov. Joan Finney signed it into law. Two decades of relative stability followed. It then was corrupted by Brownback, who saw himself as emperor and pontiff, and a Republican legislature that followed blindly along. The judiciary remained the sole source of hope in the people’s desire for a fair shake. In October 2017, the high court offered what we would find nowhere else, a ruling for equity. It came not from a legislature, not the governor. Republican leaders have dusted off their Ouija board to channel the ghosts of Brownback and tune in the old spirits. A coarse constitutional amendment would signal again that the House and Senate hope to censor the issue of adequate school finance by clubbing out the courts that insist on it. In Kelly vs. the spirit of Brownback, our judiciary must be allowed to tell us what the law is. The courts are an instrument and arbiter of our laws. Without our courts there is no law, and with no law we are subject to tyranny, to the whims and brutality of power struggles, ones that have little room for justice, and even less for the people who need it.