Back to schools as our priority

As parents turn their attention to the start of the school year, let’s remember how important our public schools are to Kansas. We must commit to making them a priority once again – so our children can thrive.

This issue isn’t new to me. Fighting for kids has been my lifelong mission. Right out of high school, I went to work at a camp that served disadvantaged adolescents. When I became a recreation therapist, I worked with children battling severe mental illness. And, I actually first ran for office because my state senator voted to slash funding for our schools. I won that race because Kansans agreed with my top priority – investing in our children.

During my time in the state Senate, I’ve worked to make sure all Kansas children have the support they need to succeed. That means access to good public schools, but it also means strong early childhood programs, an accountable child welfare system to protect kids, and affordable, safe child care. It’s really not rocket science: put kids on the right path at an early age – and keep them there. It’s how they succeed, it’s how their family succeeds, and it’s how Kansas succeeds.

For years, Sam Brownback pushed their irresponsible tax experiment on Kansas, decimating our state’s budget. Brownback – and his supporters in the legislature – focused on doing the minimum for our students and teachers. As a result, teachers fled the state, schools went to shorter weeks, class sizes grew, and our children were denied the top-notch education the deserve.

Fortunately, the election of 2016 brought a wave of new faces to the legislature and a shift in priorities. Kansas was able to make much needed changes. However, we still have leadership in the legislature and the governor’s office that does not support our schools. We must elect more leaders who will put the focus back on our students, teachers, and schools.

As you take your child back to school, know that I will make your children and their school a top priority. I have a vision of education that spans from early childhood to K-12 to college to the workforce. Because every step along the way is important: a chance for our state to do right by our kids and their parents – or to let them down. And sadly, for the past seven years, Sam Brownback and Kris Kobach have let them down.

Instead of focusing on doing the minimum, we will plan and innovate. We will expand pre-K programs, fully fund our K-12 schools and add a cost of living index to keep us out of court. We will also invest more in career and technical programs and create new public-private partnerships that connect businesses with skilled young people.

If we come together, we will make sure Kansas has the best schools in the nation so our children can be ready for the jobs of the future. Our economy is changing, and Kansas must continue to modernize our public schools to compete. It’s time we work together to put our kids first.

By Senator Laura Kelly, candidate for Kansas governor.