Martin Libhart

They really are government schools

They really are government schools

What's wrong with the term "government schools?" A recent op-ed in the Wichita Eagle read: "Some have begun to call public schools 'government schools,' a calculated pejorative scorning both education and anything related to government."[1. Merritt, Davis. Can traditional conservatism save Kansas schools? Wichita Eagle, May 17, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/article77969617.html.] This is not the only time people have objected to the term "government schools." Public schools bristle at use of the term. In a 2008 email from Wichita School Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart to Wichita school employees, he took issue with those who, using his words, "openly refer to…
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Wichita school district makes transparency effort

Recently USD 259, the Wichita public school district, placed five month's of checkbook register data on its website. This is a good move, and we should thank the district for doing this. But we need to remember that the Wichita school district is very late in making this transparency effort, and the district's past attitudes towards citizens needs to be remembered. In the past, the district has made this checkbook information available each month. It was made available as a pdf document, which is not nearly as useful as an Excel spreadsheet, which is the format of the most recent…
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Kansas open records examined

Here's another outstanding investigative report by Paul Soutar of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy. I have experienced some of the same obstacles that Soutar has encountered. Last year Wichita school district board member Lynn Rogers told me that record requests are a burden. Interim superintendent Martin Libhart's attitude was similarly hostile towards legitimate citizen requests for records. Indications are that new board president Barb Fuller and new superintendent John Allison have a better attitude towards records requests, and I hope that time proves this to be the case. The spirit is willing but the law is weak Paul…
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Should Wichita Identify Superintendent Finalists?

When USD 259, the Wichita public school district, draws criticism from the Wichita Eagle's Rhonda Holman, you know they've really done something wrong. Her column of today (Identify finalists for superintendent) requests that the Wichita school district make public the names of the finalists in its search for superintendent. Her request is likely to remain unfulfilled: "And board president Lynn Rogers was less than reassuring Wednesday when asked whether the public would have an opportunity to learn the names of more candidates than just the winner." What we'd really like to know if Martin Libhart, the present superintendent -- interim,…
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Wichita-area Legislators Hear Pleas From Government

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the South Central Kansas Legislative Delegation, held at Wichita State University. This meeting is billed as an opportunity for local governments to make their case to local legislators. Scheduled to start at 1:00 pm, it actually started at 1:20. Senator Carolyn McGinn chaired. This meeting was better attended by area legislators than the meeting Tuesday evening for citizens. Still, some legislators spent a lot of time outside the meeting room in the lobby. The activity there was described to me as "networking." That means interplay between legislators and lobbyists and local government officials. (It…
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Wichita School Superintendent Martin Libhart: What’s Wrong With “Government Schools?”

In a recent email from Wichita School Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart to Wichita school employees, he took issue with those who, using his words, "openly refer to public education as 'government schools.'" It seems as though Mr. Libhart regards the term "government schools" as derogatory. Or at least as something that should be used only in secret, instead of "openly." Why, I wonder? Would you please explain this, Superintendent Libhart?
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Raising Wichitans’ Taxes in a Recession is Not A Good Idea

"Democrat Barack Obama says he would delay rescinding President Bush's tax cuts on wealthy Americans if he becomes the next president and the economy is in a recession, suggesting such an increase would further hurt the economy." (Associated Press, September 7, 2008) Contrary to assertions by Wichita school interim superintendent Martin Libhart and school board president Lynn Rogers, Wichita can't tax and spend its way out of a recession that may or may not be forthcoming. Not even Barack Obama believes that, as shown in the news story quoted above. Still, bond issue supporters say that's what happened after the…
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Is the Wichita School District Hoping For Recession?

A recent Wichita Eagle article (Economy now is right to support the school bond) USD 259 written by Wichita school district Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart makes me wonder if the school district isn't hoping for a recession. Here's why I wonder: right now long-term interest rates for the types of bonds the district will be selling (if the bond issue passes) are rising. That makes the bond issue much more expensive. (Much more expensive. See Wichita School Bond Cost Could Rise in a Big Way.) Back when the district sold bonds from the 2000 bond issue, interest rates were lower…
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Wichita School Bond: Time Is Not Right

In a Wichita Eagle article Economy now is right to support the school bond, USD 259, the Wichita school district, Interim Superintendent Martin Libhart reminds us of the study prepared by Wichita State University that touts the economic benefit of the previous bond issue. My analysis of this report can be read at Wichita School District Economic Impact. This study has several problems, besides the fact that USD 259 bought and paid for it. Perhaps the primary problem with this study is that it treats the cost of the bond issue as though it doesn’t exist. The study presents evidence…
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At Wichita Chisholm Trail Elementary School, Why is Increased Enrollment a Problem?

Today's Wichita Eagle reports Wichita area schools' enrollment increases. Featured in this story is Chisholm Trail Elementary School, which added 112 students. The enrollment there is now 576. Interim superintendent Martin Libhart and other officials held a press conference there, presumably to emphasize the plight of this school. Someone has already mentioned to me today that the capacity of this school is 600 students. I looked in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for USD 259, and the most recent report does state that the capacity of this school is 600. How can 576 students be a problem if the capacity…
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Wichita School District: Accountability is on Our Terms

USD 259, the Wichita public school district, wants to be held accountable. They say so. It's a theme of the proposed bond issue, as recently stated by celebrity spokesman George Fahnestock: "...the district’s accountability is strong..." (See CARE launches Yes For Kids campaign) But what happens when citizens seek information from USD 259 that will let them verify claims made by the district? One of the things I and others have been looking at is the number of classrooms in the district's schools. We made a records request asking for this number, and we were told this information would cost…
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Wichita public schools: Open records requests are a burden

Listen to an audio broadcast of this article here. I recently learned that USD 259 (the Wichita, Kansas public school district) considers it a burden when citizens make requests for records. At least that's what Lynn Rogers, vice-president of the board of USD 259, told me at a May 12, 2008 meeting when I was invited to express concerns regarding my opposition to the proposed 2008 bond issue. I suspect the other board members and administration officials agree with him. As a government institution, the Wichita public school district is subject to the Kansas Open Records Act, which requires it…
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Wichita School Bond Issue: The Election That Wasn’t, and Maybe Shouldn’t Be

Wichitans for Effective Education wish to remind the residents of USD 259 (the Wichita, Kansas public school district) that on February 11, 2008, the board of USD 259 passed a resolution declaring that a special election was to be held today, May 6. That resolution asked the citizens of this community to approve a $350 million school bond proposal. On April 7, on the advice of an allied citizens group, the board decided the election should be delayed until some yet-to-be-known date. The board originally argued that it was imperative to vote as soon as possible instead of waiting for…
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Martin Libhart is qualified in what way?

When Bob Corkins, a lawyer with no classroom experience, was named Kansas Commissioner of Education in 2005, newspaper editorialists and education bureaucrats throughout Kansas condemned the action. How could a person with no classroom experience and no traditional education credentials possibly manage the state's schools? "Bob's in way over his head," said Winston Brooks, superintendent of USD 259, the Wichita public school district. But what about Martin Libhart, the man who succeeds Winston Brooks, if only as the interim superintendent? According to a news release on the USD 259 website: "Because Libhart does not currently possess a district level leadership…
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