“Keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys!”
Forty-nine years ago, I was a sixth-grader at Ridgeview School in Olathe. This is easy to remember because the year was 1970 and the Kansas City Chiefs were going to the Super Bowl! In my then short life, I had only known the Chiefs were great. They had been to half of the four Super Bowls. This was bound to last a lifetime. Little did I know, it might be the chance of a lifetime.
Since that time, Chiefs fans have experienced the Christmas Day game, aka the Longest Game, the Montana Injury Game, the Nick Lowry miss, The Pittsburg No TD Game, the No Punt Game, the 21-3 Blown Lead Game, The Grbac-Gannon Game, and the Lin Elliot Misses (3) … this is depressing. I am going to stop.
There are two great take-aways from this history lesson. One, to paraphrase “Hamilton,” is “Don’t throw away your shot.” Since 1970, the Chiefs have thrown away their shots. And every one of them has been agonizing. The more upbeat lesson is in the immortal words of Hank Stram, “Keep matriculating the ball down the field, boys.” If Coach Stram had been there for all of those near misses, maybe our team could have focused on the goal of matriculating the ball down the field.
Around the same time as the first Super Bowl (1967), the people of Kansas passed Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution (1966). Like the Super Bowl did for the NFL, Article 6 establishes high goals for the students, and policy-makers of our state. And like our KC Chiefs, it has been a long road for Kansas education to get back to that championship.
Policymakers had big wins with the School District Equalization Act (SDEA) early (1973), then with the 1992 School District Finance and Quality Performance Act. Both were found to meet the requirements of Article 6 — Super Bowl wins!
Then came the losses. The Kansas Legislature commissioned studies in an attempt to get back to the school finance Super Bowl. The Augenblick and Myers study of 2002 told us we fell short of meeting the constitutional obligation. That led to a great effort — the Montoy Decision in 2006. In 2006, Kansas policymakers agreed to a three-year fix that would have solved adequacy and equity if it had just been followed. But because we didn’t follow the formula, things went wide right, and we missed the chip shot field goal needed to win the game.
After coming so close, our home team suffered some setbacks. First was the Legislative Post Audit study of 2006 that said that Kansas schools were underfunded. It contained a game plan by establishing a direct 1:1 relationship between spending and student performance. All we had to do was follow it.
Then the Gannon case was filed — an appeal to the referees (Courts) to help us get back into the compliance with the Article 6 Super Bowl. The Gannon case was a long run of rulings that schools were underfunded culminating in the Taylor Study commissioned by the Legislature in 2018. Professor Taylor found, again, that Kansas schools are underfunded, as did the follow-up 2018 Levin Study.
We took a big step forward in 2018 with the passage of a funding formula that includes a long-term plan. To stretch the analogy further, one might say we are winning the Super Bowl and all we have to do is keep matriculating the ball down the field.
But now we have dissenters who say we never wanted to go to the Super Bowl anyway. That was all a pipe dream and we should just settle for what we have. They want to change the goal by passing a constitutional amendment that says the Legislature decides when the constitutional obligation is met. That is a little bit like saying Andy Reid gets to determine who wins the Super Bowl. I’m sure the Chiefs would win every year, but does it really mean we are the best that we can be?
Don’t be distracted; keep your eye on the ball. Run “65 toss power sweep” (ask an old Chiefs fan for clarification) and keep matriculating the ball down the field. Kansas students deserve to be winners in the education Super Bowl. Don’t accept a sour grapes attitude of changing the goal right before we reach it! We are so close to having the school systems funded in a way that meets the high expectations we should have for our students. We must demand our team (the Kansas Legislature) keeps matriculating the ball down the field!