Archive for Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Republicans call for removal of former legislator from education panel

September 10, 2014


— In an effort to change the debate over school funding and education policy, Gov. Sam Brownback and a group of rural Republican state senators are calling on Democrat Paul Davis to remove his appointee to a task force on school efficiency.

John Vratil, a moderate Republican from Leawood and a former vice president of the Kansas Senate, was appointed to the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission by Rep. Paul Davis, the House Democratic leader who is now challenging Brownback for re-election.

Brownback and the senators, led by Majority Leader Terry Bruce, R-Hutchinson, argue that Vratil spoke in favor of forced consolidation of rural schools in a 2011 interview with the Topeka Capital-Journal.

"Calling for the forced consolidation of rural schools is essentially calling for the death of numerous rural communities," Bruce said.

Throughout his first term in office, Brownback has been harshly criticized by education groups for cuts in base state aid for public schools — cuts that the Davis campaign has called the largest in state history.

Brownback has said those cuts were the result of the federal government phasing out stimulus aid to states at the end of the Great Recession. But his critics say the state could have replaced that money as revenues to the state recovered, but that Brownback chose instead to enact large tax cuts, which he hoped would stimulate the Kansas economy even more.

The Kansas National Education Association, the state's largest teachers union, has endorsed Davis in the race. They also criticize Brownback for signing a school finance bill this year that stripped teachers of tenure rights, reduced funding that targeted low-income, at-risk students, and provided tax credits for corporate contributions to scholarship funds for private and parochial schools.

That was the same bill that established the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission.

But in recent weeks, Brownback has tried to change the conversation about education by talking about how much he admires teachers while noting that one of his daughters is now a teacher.

And during the Kansas State Fair debate on Saturday, Brownback said he opposes forced consolidation of rural schools while pointing out that Davis had appointed Vratil to the K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission.

His campaign also distributed fliers to the audience claiming that forced consolidation would be part of the "Davis-Vratil Education Agenda."

In 2011, Vratil was vice-chair of the Senate Education Committee as well as vice-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which deals with budgets.

The Capital-Journal article, published July 28 that year, focused on the struggles of rural school districts in sparsely populated western Kansas and how many of them had already been forced to consolidate because of budget issues.

Vratil was cited as saying that in spite of more budget cuts coming, Johnson County schools would be able to sustain themselves for a number of years. But he said rural schools should need to face the reality that they might be forced to consolidate and that taxpayers in Johnson County were unhappy about paying taxes to prop up those schools.

"Rural school districts will be starved out of existence," Vratil was quoted as saying. "And the sooner they realize that, the better off they will be."

Vratil did not respond to a request for comment about that quote.

In the flier, however, the Brownback campaign referred only to the quote and did not reference the broader context of declining populations in western Kansas and cuts being made by the Brownback administration at that time in education spending.

"The biggest threat to schools across the state is four more years of Sam Brownback's failed experiment," Davis' campaign spokesman Chris Pumpelly said. "Paul Davis opposes school consolidation as strongly as he opposes Sam Brownback's massive cuts to education, and Sam Brownback and his allies know it."


Devin Wilson 3 years, 7 months ago

One of the members of the Commission was paid to lobby for this part of #HB2506 (Education funding bill), Senate added this to the ed funding bill without running it through committee, it passes 9:15p Sunday April 6th while the house operating on 3hr sleep. Said lobbyist coincidentally gets appointed to the Commission. Said lobbyist thinks efficiencies are doing away with extracurriculars. Sorry, cuts aren't efficiencies. Also, getting tired of Topeka strong arming their way into Commissions, Committees, local governments. Am I the only one that thinks things are a little fishy here? -Devin brick Wilson Lenexa


Lynn Grant 3 years, 7 months ago

Maybe Davis could consider removing Vratil from the commission when Ray Merrick removes Mike O'Neal of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and/or Davie Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute. Vratil has actually supported public education in many ways. O'Neal and Trabert want to destroy public education and replace it with private schools. Merrick's picks are disgraceful and a detriment to our children's education.

3 years, 7 months ago

Watch it Lynn! You're making way too much sense! You're gonna get your comment removed!

David Reber 3 years, 7 months ago

"Calling for the forced consolidation of rural schools is essentially calling for the death of numerous rural communities," Bruce said.

So.....the right-wingers who insist that public education and the funding thereof is a drain on the economy are now saying that without public schools, numerous rural communities would cease to exist?

Gee, it's almost like they're making things up as they go along.....

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 3 years, 7 months ago

What happened to the Republicans call for consolidating lots of districts, supposedly to save money? What happened to Brownback's plan to entice people to move to western Kansas? What happened to all the jobs that were suppose to pour in from Brownback's tax plan? Why do Republicans want to build a power plant in western Kansas to bring in a few temporary jobs, but want to kill wind energy, which is bringing in jobs and money? If you live in western Kansas, Vratil is the least of your worries. Don't be distracted by this stupidity.

Ralph Reed 3 years, 7 months ago

Bruce cannot produce the "comments" Vratil allegedly made, he simply expects people to believe what he says because he, Bruce, is a staunch GOP member who follows everything The Guv says. Bruce, produce what Vratil said, I'll wager you can't.

The Guv says Vratil is bad, so Bruce, acting as a toady simply repeats what The Guv wants.

Keep in mind that the closer we get to November, The Guv will seem to panic even more. This is just another shot at Davis and says nothing about The Guv's policies and record.

Paul R Getto 3 years, 7 months ago

The Gov's campaign seems to be going poorly. His plans are not working, so they deal with trivia and commissions to try and distract from the growing discontent. Can Sammie's little muscular jesus save him again? We will know in a few weeks.

Lawrence Freeman 3 years, 7 months ago

Yes! And sadly he may be right intoo many cases!!!

Jeffrey Sykes 3 years, 7 months ago

On pages 18 and 19 of this document published by the Kansas Policy Institute, anyone can read that Dave Trabert advocates consolidation. If Vratil's comments disqualify him from this commission, than Trabert who explicitly argues in favor should be removed by Speaker Merrick.

Brownback's campaign is trying to score points while failing to acknowledge the way that people very close to the Governor and Republican leadership are more likely to lead efforts to consolidate schools. Blatant hypocrisy. But what more should we expect from the Governor's campaign at this point?

Michael Shaw 3 years, 7 months ago

Why has this article vanished from the Journal World website? It was the lead story on Thursday.

Tracy Rogers 3 years, 7 months ago

Why would anyone be removed from the committee? Isn't the whole purpose of putting together a committee to get people of differing opinions together to see if they can offer some alternatives to the way things are done now? Why wouldn't you want people who don't think alike?

Oh yeah, there's an election coming up. Now I got it.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

If Sam Brownback appoints anyone to anything it is because they think as he does otherwise no appointment.

Newt Gingrich and his Contract for America was created through ALEC. This ALEC GOP does not tolerate anyone questioning leadership. It's the dictator mentality which is a giant threat to democracy.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

Ray Merrick is an ALEC board member.

A perfect example of how Sam Brownback cannot stay focused on the issues. There is no reason this should on the table.

Sam is a king of distractions and nonsense in political campaigns.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 7 months ago

The ALEC Republicans posing as republicans want to recall a real republican ……. These ALEC Libertarians have no sense whatsoever.

Who wants a state government controlled by Right Wing bordering on Nazi Libertarians?

Founding members of ALEC,Americans for Prosperity and the John Birch Society Charles and David Koch are lifelong libertarians and have quietly given more than a hundred million dollars to right-wing causes.


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