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'He Wants to Take Kansas Back to the Dark Ages'—Meet the Waitress Who Told Off Sam Brownback

May 6, 2015 in Blogs

By Luke Brinker, Salon

Chloe Hough, whose “tip” to Kansas' ultraconservative governor went viral, dishes.

Located in a towering late Gothic revival building – apocryphally described by locals as the first million-dollar high school west of the Mississippi River — Topeka High School, situated just four blocks from the Statehouse, is the pride of Kansas’ capital city.

The hallowed halls of the 84-year-old building have served as the academic home of Herbert Hoover-era Vice President Charles Curtis, basketball legend Dean Smith, the revered Republican Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum, and renowned poet and novelist Ben Lerner. The school’s bevy of Advanced Placement courses and its acclaimed programs in music, theater and debate attract many transfer students who live outside the school district; I was one of them.

Topeka High’s tale, however, is ultimately one of two schools. Its racial and socioeconomic diversity is one of the school’s most trumpeted selling points, but the lived experiences of the school’s poor and minority students are vastly different from those of the predominantly white and affluent students who flock to the school for its robust academics. Nearly 30 percent of Topeka High’s freshmen drop out before graduation, compared with a statewide average of 15 percent. More than two-thirds of studentsreceive free or reduced-price lunches. According to figures provided by the school, about 40 percent of graduates do not go on to any postsecondary education or training.

Those are the students slated to be hit hardest by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s public education cuts, which he has imposed to help fill the massive revenue shortfallscreated by his income tax cuts for the wealthy. Under a block-grant funding scheme Brownback signed into law this winter, Topeka High’s school district is slated to lose $3.6 million in funding this year and over the next two years after that, jeopardizing a wide array of academic and extracurricular offerings; for Topeka High students, athletics programs, arts education, and foreign language courses could be on the chopping block. Other districts have cut short their school years; others still warn they may not have enough toilet paper …read more


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