To the editor:
Things don’t change as much as you think. Original Kansans emigrated from the cities and towns of the East where 19th Century politics were dominated by bosses. The Kansas Constitution was written by people who distrusted politicians. Accordingly, that constitution restricts the powers of the governor and the legislature.
The wealthy have always had good schools, private schools, because they can afford to pay tuition. The genius of America, as understood during the 19th Century, was good public schools, open to all, without tuition. Constitutions make choices. Ours chose to require the state to provide public education.
They wrote: “The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational, and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools…” Article 6, Section 1. If that wasn’t clear enough, they went on: “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state. No tuition shall be charged…” Article 6, Section 6.
Their words are mandatory, “shall provide,” “shall make suitable provision,” “no tuition shall be charged.” These mandates are imposed upon the legislature, just like the mandates of free speech and religion. Politicians cannot make laws that violate the constitution. If the legislature does not make “suitable provision” for public education, then Kansans who want a “suitable” education will be forced to go to private schools and pay tuition. Thus, an unsuitable education violates the constitution.
But the constitution, if he doesn’t like it, gives Gov. Brownback a solution: He can seek amendment. Absent that, the constitution must be obeyed.