Watching this legislative tragedy unfold this weekend was disappointing

The Kansas State legislature delivered a win for Governor Sam Brownback and Americans for Prosperity this weekend.

Some parts of the bill were added at 4 a.m. Sunday in a meeting whose legality is still being questioned. The result is a school finance plan that legislators hope meets the Supreme Court standards set for in the recent ruling requiring the legislators to make funding levels more equal for poor and rural school districts.

However, the removal of a six-decade-old policy giving teachers the right to a due process hearing before being terminated, was attached to the bill at the bequest of lawmakers under the influence of Americans for Prosperity.

Unfortunately, several of those AFP supported legislators represent Butler County.

Ty Masterson is the State Senator from District 16, which includes Andover and Augusta. He was integral in negotiating the terms of the bill for the Senate before leaving for a vacation – reportedly to Hawaii even though Sen. Susan Wagle seemed to believe he was out of the country.

Masterson is a nice guy away from the State Senate. If you want to have a Diet Coke and chat with someone, he is a top candidate.

But if you want someone to determine education policy, I can’t think of many people who would be worse. Masterson has never made it a secret that he holds public schools in low regard – seeing them as ineffective and inefficient.

Because he was on vacation, Masterson didn’t have the pleasure of sticking it to K-12 teachers, but his Butler County colleagues were among the close majorities who passed it in both houses.

Forrest Knox the State Senator for District 14 covering El Dorado, Towanda, Douglass and the rest of eastern Butler County, David Crum, Representative for Augusta and Douglass and Representative Will Carpenter whose district includes Towanda and El Dorado all voted to destroy rights teachers have enjoyed for almost 60 years.

This was not a conservative idea.

There have been thousands of conservatives in the state legislature in the more than 50 years since teachers first received the right to a hearing before being fired. If your want to see the origin of this bill, follow the straight line between the Koch brothers, AFP, Brownback and the Senate.

This lineage truly comes into focus when Sen. Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence) questioned Sen. Tom Arpke (R-Salina) about the amendment he allegedly authored.

When Fransico asked why the education bill that would remove due process for only K-12 teachers, Arpke could not answer on either the content or intent of “his” Amendment.

He is merely a puppet and could find no answers since no one was there to move his strings.

That is the problem with the Americans for Prosperity and the Koch brothers. They buy their way into offices so that they don’t have to participate in actual politics. You will never hear AFP or the Koch brothers in a direct debate.

They act only as the financial foundation and undercurrent that drags the process into the ethical gutter.

Hundreds of teachers filled the state capitol this weekend trying to lobby for legislators to take their side. There was no similar response from AFP. No one from that group stood in the chambers or held signs asking for legislators to take away teachers’ due process.

They don’t have to.
They write checks, send secret emails and support groups like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council, which has two Kansas legislators on the board of directors) that create legislation like that passed this weekend.

Masterson’s largest listed campaign donor is Koch Industries, followed closely by several of self-professed TEA Party member Wink Hartman’s many Wichita-based industries.

David Crum has also enjoyed the support of Koch Industries in his campaigns. That support was more important to him than a teacher’s right to due process. The saddest commentary in his vote is that Crum’s wife was a teacher in Augusta who enjoyed that right until she retired.

That is the new conservative way. Rights are only good if they have them and you don’t. Tax cuts and credits are bad unless they benefit them. And government overreach is bad, unless that same state legislature wants to pass a bill nullifying all local gun control measures.

Today’s conservatives are no longer satisfied with having their cake and eating it too. They also want to make sure no one else has any cake.

Money can always buy advantages. Those advantages were never more evident than watching hundreds of teachers betrayed in favor of puppet-masters who never even made a public appearance.

I have to think that during the upcoming election cycle, last weekend will provide a lot of motivation for people who might have stayed on the sidelines otherwise.

When Governor Sam Brownback, who also hid in the shadows all weekend, signs this bill, he will set in stone much of the debate between himself and Democrat challenger Paul Davis.

Watching this legislative tragedy unfold this weekend was disappointing. Knowing our local Senators and Representatives were among those leading the charge was appalling.

Kent Bush is the publisher of the Butler County Times-Gazette.  He can be contacted at: