Kansas Gubernatorial Debate: School Funding, Public Safety and Wrap-up


Question: The Kansas Supreme Court has voted that state spending in public schools is inadequate. The court gave to the end of the next legislative session to come up with a plan to provide more funding. How specifically will you fix school funding and how will you pay for it?

Greg Orman: Well, I think what the Supreme Court said was the bill that was passed was sufficient provided it accounts for inflation. I think we have the resources and our budget to address that. We will not have much left to do a lot of other things, which is why I focused on growing the economy and making the state of Kansas more efficient. I will talk a little bit about ways we can do that. We are engaged in a costly and expensive border war with Missouri right now. We spend money to take companies from their side of Stateline Road to ours and they do the same thing. We looked at hall Family Foundation said $301,000 for every net new job created and that’s a waste of money. We can redirect the dollars to our other priorities. But the other thing that my wife said to me, who is a public school teacher, that really resonated is the best education policy is a growing economy. So much of what happens to a student in their educational outcomes happens to a student outside the classroom. If we can create great jobs for people so parents can be more involved in their children’s education, so kids don’t have to work until 2:30 in the morning at a convenience store, we can lift everybody up.

Secretary Kris Kobach: We have a constitutional crisis going on right now in Kansas. The Kansas Supreme Court has seized the authority of the legislature to determine adequate spending amounts for education. They are the only supreme court in the nation that has done this. And I can say this as a former professor of constitutional law, Article six, Section six of the constitution that they point to has nothing in there that says the court can force an adequate amount of dollars be spent for every child. Now what we should be doing, under my plan, as we increase spending on education, let’s ensure that we instead of spending 52 cents of every dollar, we are spending 75 cents of every dollar in the classroom. Then we will see outcomes improve. We have increased overall spending for 20 years, but we’ve seen our educational test scores flat. The second part of my plan, I want every school to be given a letter grade — A through F. If any school increases their letter grade, everybody in the building gets a raise — the teachers, the principal, the assistant principal, the coaches, the janitor gets a raise. So everyone has a financial stake in improved performance.

Senator Laura Kelly: I think the Supreme Court ruling is actually evidence of the importance of keeping the three separate but equal branches of government. To put in a constitutional amendment that would restrict the Supreme Court from overseeing what the legislature does and not being able to determine whether we are doing what we are constitutionally mandated to do is absurd on the face of it. They have been the check on a legislature that so many times has not done what they were supposed to do, which is adequately funding the schools. Our schools are the largest economic driver in the state. It is not only important to our kids in the schools that they get their education but our entire state that we have a quality education program going on if we want to attract businesses, to keep businesses and to be able to provide for those businesses the workers that they need. 

Question: We are asking you to grade our state’s gun laws. We’ll use the traditional school grading system A through F. Tell us, what grade would you give Kansas gun laws and why?

Secretary Kris Kobach: Kansas gets an A- right now. I believe strongly in the right in keeping and bearing arms. The idea that violent crime is increasing because we have the right to keep and bear arms is ridiculous. The lawbreakers will break the law, no matter what that law is. So to say the law-abiding citizens should have fewer rights because violent crime goes up is wrong. The only thing that stops the bad guy with a gun is a good guy with the gun. We need the right to protect ourselves. Both of my opponents have said in the case of Greg Orman, or voted in the case of Laura Kelly to restrict our gun rights. That’s why Laura kelly has an F from the NRA and I have an A. They both want to restrict magazine capacity, they both want to limit our concealed carry rights. It is our concealed carry rights that protect us when the government is not there. Sometimes when a citizen is in trouble, you cannot get a police officer there in time right. Our citizens need the right to protect ourselves. I will continue to protect our government. 

Senator Laura Kelly: I would give Kansas gun laws a C. I have always been a strong supporter of the second amendment throughout my legislative career. But I also think most Kansas gun owners in Kansas believe we need to reinstate some common sense gun policy to ensure the safety of our kids and safety in schools, homes, and the safety in our streets. I plan to bring together the state coalition, bring together law enforcement, mental health professionals, educators, students, and parents and work with them to form a comprehensive gun sense policy that make sense for Kansas that continues to ensure law-abiding citizens’ access to guns but also make sure our kids in schools are safe.

Greg Orman: I think our gun laws are roughly a C, as well. I’m a gun owner. I support the right to keep and bear arms. But I believe in reasonable firearms safety measures. One of the things we need to look at is the new concealed carry law that was passed. We had a good law that required eight hours of safety training to carry a concealed weapon. Today in Kansas we require 1000 hours to legally wax an eyebrow, but eight hours for guns. That is a mistake. The people we catch in our background check system are those who have been judged to be mentally ill and sentenced to more than one year in prison or have a restraining order against them for domestic abuse. I do not want them owning guns. We need to make our gun laws more sensible and protect an honor the second amendment.

Question: Before we get to closing statements, we want to hear about a response not related to the issues. We are going to ask each of you to say something nice about each of your opponents.

Senator Laura Kelly: Kris Kobach has one of the most adorable families that I have ever seen. I would say about Greg Orman that I actually worked on Greg’s campaign in 2014 when he was running for the Senate. I thought he was eminently qualified for that position. I continue to think that. 

Greg Orman: I would echo what Laura Kelly said about Kris’ family. One of the sweetest moments for me was a parade in Gardner when I looked over and saw my 3-year-old daughter playing with Kris’ daughters. It just reminded me of what we all really have in common. I think Senator Kelly is very intelligent and thoughtful person. I think she is someone who cares deeply about the state of Kansas. 

Secretary Kris Kobach: I agree. I think that Senator Kelly is one of the most experienced legislators in the Kansas Senate. I think she is one of the legislators who reads the bill and does some homework and far to few people to that in the legislature. I think Greg Orman is someone who has actually got a wealth of experience and is very thoughtful as he approaches the issues. I think his quest to support some identity outside of the parties, although I don’t think it will succeed, it too is thoughtful.

Question: We want to give each of you time for closing statements. You each have 30 seconds. We start with our random draw order, beginning with Greg Orman.

Mr. Greg Orman: Next Tuesday, Kansans have a choice. They can decide if they want their decision to be based on fear, based on a vote for a bad candidate to avoid a worse one, or if they want to vote based on courage. We have a decision to make. Do we want Kansas to lead again? Do we want Kansas to set an example for the rest of the nation? Do we want Kansas to show our country away out of the broken politics that have left so many Americans and so many Kansans behind? If you want that, I am your candidate and I humbly ask for your vote on November 6.

Secretary Kris Kobach: I would ask you if you like the status quo in Kansas government. If you do like the status quo and think nothing should change, you should vote for one of my opponents. Because if they are elected, you will have four years of absolute gridlock. The Republican legislature will pass a bill and they will veto it. Pass a bill and veto it. If I am elected, I will lead. As you’ve heard tonight, I have many ideas that will take our state in a bold new direction and offer tax relief to Kansans. We will also stop giving away your money to illegal aliens and will fight for things like term limits and for things that will change the game completely in Kansas.

Senator Laura Kelly: This is a really pivotal election for Kansas. The stakes have never been so high and the choice has never been so clear. We can either go back to the Sam Brownback devastating years or we can elect a governor who will work like the devil to rebuild our state. Kansas needs a strong, steady , experienced leader who can work from day one to get our state back on track. As your governor, I would do that. I am Laura Kelly. I am the only thing standing between Kris Kobach and the governor’s office. I ask for your vote on November 6.

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