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Holland and Brownback: Polar Opposites on Education

By Denise Cassells
Analysis | March 4, 2010

MOUND CITY, Kan. - In 2002, Tom Holland said that he ran to represent his neighbors in the Kansas House of Representatives, "because our schools were facing severe funding shortages."

He explained, "Year after year, I watched my kids' classroom sizes get bigger and important programs being cut. I knew how to solve problems for businesses, and when I saw the problems facing my kids' schools, I decided to lead. I set out to share my vision with other Kansans. The critics said I had no chance. But, I went on to beat the established candidate, a four-term incumbent, and the chair of the House Education Committee."

Living in Kansas full-time, Holland raised four children: Thomas, a Kansas University graduate; Derek, a Baker University graduate; Brandon, a Kansas University junior; and Louisa, a South Junior High eighth grader. All four attended Lawrence schools during a tumultuous time when public schools faced severe funding shortages.

In 2002, Holland witnessed his children's classroom sizes growing larger, and understood why people were upset about the problems facing Kansas schools. That is when Holland made the decision to take action and run for office in a district represented by Ralph Tanner chair of the House Education Committee, a four-term incumbent who clearly had turned his back on public schools. Holland handily defeated him.

In 2008, Holland ran for the State Senate. Doubts overcome, Holland once again beat a Republican incumbent Roger Pine.

Holland says that entered public service to put his problem-solving skills to work to protect Kansas public schools. Today, he continues steadily in his efforts to fully-fund public education in Kansas.

In comparison, when Sam Brownback was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996, his only experience was Secretary of the Kansas Board of Agriculture from 1986 until 1993, when the board was dissolved.

Once elected to the U.S. Senate, Brownback, in a display of self-interest, refused to sign Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) Contract with America, which, according to Gingrich, centered on the economy and budget, government reform, ethics, and homeland security.

Brownback's purpose for being in the Senate would eventually appear to be an unsuccessful battle to abolish the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Energy, Education, Housing, and Urban Development.

He took several direct actions to decrease or limit the funding of public education. For example, Brownback voted no on shifting $11 billion from corporate tax loopholes to education funding. That amendment to the Senate's 2006 Fiscal Year Budget Resolution would have adjusted education funding while reducing the deficit by $5.4 billion. A yes vote could have restored education program cuts slated for vocational education, adult education, GEAR UP, and TRIO, increase the maximum Pell Grant scholarship to $4,500 immediately, increased future math and science teacher student loan forgiveness to $23,000, and paid for the education funding by closing $10.8 billion in corporate tax loopholes.

Brownback also voted no on $52 million for community learning centers, which covered the American Competitiveness Scholarship Act, the omnibus appropriations bill for the Departments of Education, and Health and Human Services; and to increase appropriations for after-school programs through 21st century community learning centers. Voting yes would have increased funding by $51.9 million for after school programs run by the 21st century community learning centers and would decrease funding by $51.9 million for salaries and expenses in the Department of Labor. The bill passed, George W. Bush vetoed the bill.

In 2005, Brownback voted no on $5 billion for grants to local educational agencies. The bill passage would have provided funding for title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Voting yes would have allowed $2.5 billion for targeting grants to local educational agencies, and $2.5 billion for education finance-incentive grants.

Brownback voted no on funding smaller classes instead of private tutors. A yes vote on that Senate Bill would have authorized a federal program aimed at reducing class size. The plan would have assisted states and local education agencies in recruiting, hiring, and training 100,000 new teachers, with $2.4 billion in fiscal 2002. The new amendment would have replaced a prior amendment allowing parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.

Brownback also, in 2001, voted no on funding student testing instead of private tutors. A vote to pass an amendment that would have authorized $200 million to provide grants to help states develop assessment systems that describe student achievement. This amendment would have replaced an amendment that allowed parents with children at under-performing schools to use public funding for private tutors.

Once again, Brownback voted no on spending $448 billion of tax cuts on education and debt reduction in 2001. This whopper would have reduced the size of a $1.6 trillion tax cut by $448 billion while increasing education spending by $250 billion. It would have provided an increase of revenue, approximately $224 billion for debt reduction, over 10 years.

Brownback voted yes to allow more flexibility in federal school rules. This vote was a motion to invoke cloture on a bill aimed at allowing states to waive certain federal rules normally required in order to disburse federal school aid. A yes vote according to the National Education Association (NEA) implies support of charter schools and vouchers. This cloture failed in 1999.

Brownback, a year after taking office, voted yes on school vouchers in D.C. This legislation would have amended the D.C. spending measure by imposing an unconstitutional school voucher program on the District. This vote did not go Brownback's way.

In 2008, Brownback praised No Child Left Behind for boosting student achievement nationwide. He voted in favor of the bill that requires every state to test students annually. Failure to meet certain requirements resulted in reduced federal funding to schools.

Furthermore, Brownback sponsored a bill that would allow states to opt out of "federal regulatory constraints" under the law in favor of standards he supported. However, states would still have to meet the goals and objectives of No Child Left Behind to receive federal money for education.

Brownback has a score of 27 percent by the NEA on public education issues. This rating indicates that he is anti-education based on his votes. The NEA, founded in 1857, sought "to elevate the character and advance the interests of the profession of teaching and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States."

The current NEA mission statement is:

"To fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all."

Just in case anyone doubts that Brownback also wants to abolish Medicaid, here are a few more votes worth mentioning.

  • Voted no on adding 2 to 4 million children to SCHIP eligibility (Nov 2007)
  • Voted no on expanding enrollment period for Medicare Part D (Feb 2006)
  • Voted yes on $40 billion per year for limited Medicare prescription drug benefits (Jun 2003)
  • Voted no on allowing re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada (Jul 2002)
  • Voted no on allowing patients to sue HMOs and collect punitive damages (Jun 2001)
  • Voted no on including prescription drugs under Medicare (Jun 2000)
  • Voted yes on limiting self-employment health deductions (Jul 1999)

Kent Swartz, Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) Region 8 Vice President, traveled to Washington D.C. in February to attend the Federal Relations Networks Conference. Brownback had dinner with the Kansas group and apparently sought endorsement for his run as Kansas Governor from KASB. Later, while speaking at the conference, Swartz said, "He's (Brownback) wanting support from the KASB...He says he'll change school funding. But when I asked him, he said 'the pie' will not be any bigger."

There is a clear choice for Kansans this year. Here is a State Legislature and State Senator who voted for the three-year school finance plan to provide $466 million for Kansas schools and allow property tax protest petitions for LOB property tax increases.

Holland has served as an outstanding member of the House Education Committee. A member in the 2004 Interim Legislature Education Planning Committee, who was endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Families United for Public Education, and Education All Children in Kansas (E-PAC).

Holland has a proven record in running a successful business, doing more with less, meeting payroll, and delivering solutions on time and under-budget. Holland has well represented the people in his district.

When this man walks into a packed hall and says, "My name is Tom Holland and I'm the guy who is going to beat Sam Brownback."

People should take notice, and pay attention to the rest of his story. Holland explains,

For the past 16 years, I've worked hard to keep my small business competitive and growing. There have been good times and lean times. I understand the challenges facing businesses across the state; making payroll, paying the bills, and carving out a path for long-term growth.

I've lived my life focused on family, jobs and business.

Growing up, I learned entrepreneurship directly from my mother who started her own successful business doing what she loved. I learned about listening and being responsive to customers' needs from my father who was a salesman for over 30 years. So, when I went to college, I studied business and started my career as a software engineer. I had a vision of starting my own company where finding solutions was done through careful listening to customers. A business where innovative solutions to a customer's problems were delivered on time and under-budget.

Nearly 20 years ago, my wife, Barbara, and I moved our family to Kansas because I had an interim job opportunity at the Santa Fe Railway in Topeka. When that job was complete, we chose to stay here in Kansas. We saw Kansas as a land of opportunity, the place to start and grow our business and realize our American dream and a place where our four kids would be in the best public schools.

Kansas has been very good to me, and my family. But now times have gotten harder. Kansans are facing problems of historic proportions. Our economy is the worst it has been in over two generations.

I have seen problems facing our state before, and I have answered the call for Kansans.

Now, our state faces an unprecedented budget crisis. Our businesses, schools, social services, and public safety programs are in trouble.

Last year, over 60,000 jobs were lost in our state. Our unemployment insurance trust fund has run out of money. People across the state are worried about what will happen to them, their children, and the state if we don't get more jobs here in Kansas.

When we talk about the economic crisis, we are talking about people having jobs so that they can take care of their families.

When we talk about the economic crisis, we are talking about Kansas students being able to find jobs here at home when they graduate.

When we talk about the economic crisis, we are talking about providing services to those who are most vulnerable.

Every time we talk about the economic crisis, we are talking about real people, in real communities, in every corner of this state.

The next Kansas Governor must find solutions to these difficult problems, not put the failed politics and divisive agenda of Washington to work in our state.

For the past 16 years, Sam Brownback has been part of the problem. While in Washington, Brownback presided over a $5 trillion dollar increase in our federal debt, voting against fiscal responsibility and in support of laws that created the recession we are currently facing.

Brownback had a front row seat in Washington while his failed policies made life worse for our families. Now, Sam Brownback wants to put his failed Washington politics and divisive agenda to work in our state. Enough is enough. We have seen the Sam Brownback way. The people of Kansas deserve a leader who knows how to create jobs and rebuild our economy.

I lead through listening and I am the only candidate who can put politics aside and bring all people together, Republicans, Democrats, and proud Independents.

So, I put these questions to you my fellow Kansans:

Do Kansans want a governor who would let corporate farms crowd our family farmers and ranchers? No we don't.

Do Kansans want a governor who helped bring debt, gridlock, and partisanship to our federal government? No we don't.

Do Kansans want a governor who will divide this state, who sees every government job as a stepping-stone in his personal quest for the White House? No we don't.

What Kansans do want is a governor who understands that Kansans are at their best when they are moving forward together.

Kansans want a governor who understands public service is a calling, not a career.

Kansans want a governor that understands education is the key to our state's prosperity.

Kansans want a governor that understands small businesses, family farms, and working men and women can only truly thrive when they have a level playing field.

Fellow Kansans, I will be that governor because I understand these fundamental truths.


Denise, another great article. I must be getting old, because when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's my parents and everyone else's parents wanted to have the best schools, the best universities in Kansas. They wanted to be #1. Everyone was willing to sacrifice to have the best educational opportunities in the USA right here in Kansas. People used to care about the common good. I'm glad that Tom Holland sees the economic and social value of having smart kids and adults in Kansas.

Thank you, Denise. This kind of information is what the public in Kansas needs to hear.

However, the nation is suffering from an increasing federal debt. Pointing out all the times Brownback voted not to spend money is not enough. We need to see a concrete solution to government funding, not a mythical calculation of the 'trickle down theory'. Tax reduction does not and will not solve our economic crises. Elimination of government will not stimulate the wealthy to consider sharing their good fortune with the less fortunate. Elimination of government will not give the lower echelons of society power to compete economically with those who control the wealth of our country. Tom Holland will have to come up with a taxing plan that will equitably share the cost of government. The voting public will have to be convinced that the benefits of government are shared equitably with all; rich or poor, old or young, powerful or weak, male or female or ??, relgious or non. That list is inexhaustible. The difference of opinion is what is equitable. That opinion of the candidate has to resonate with the majority of the voters.

We need to be able to see the benefits of government expenditures. They need to show an eventual benefit to the economy. For instance, a quality and comprehensive education prepares students to understand and overcome diversity. A well rounded, comprehensive liberal arts education is essential to equiping the general public for acquiring the skills to make their community healthy and vibrant. We need, also, to give specialized education and training for equiping the leaders of society.

I think supporters of a strong education base is a good place to start. But, he will have to reach a broader sector of society than just the education establishment.

Very good writing. You did your homework on finding about the issues. I like how Holland is working on closing corporate loopholes and finding ways to pay for educational initiatives

Do you know how Holland feels about issues involving teacher tenure, vouchers, dealing with under-performing schools, and merit pay?

To be honest, while I want our schools to be well funded I dont believe in just giving them a blank check. We need to have accountability. I want to read about high SAT scores, not just good football teams.

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