At GOP debate, Kobach criticizes spending on Shawnee Mission’s Center for Academic Achievement

Kris Kobach said the district’s “crystal palace” was an example of unnecessary spending on K-12.

The Shawnee Mission School District’s Center for Academic Achievement was the subject of some critical remarks by Sec. of State Kris Kobach during Saturday’s GOP gubernatorial debate in Salina.

Asked about his position on consolidation of school districts and K-12 funding, Kobach said he would focus as governor on reducing duplicate expenses where possible and mandating that 75 cents out of every dollar will be spent in the classroom.

Kobach said that K-12 spending in the state at present is higher than needed because of expenses on “extra administrators” and “Taj Mahal buildings.”

“If you haven’t seen them here, I invite you to go to somewhere like Johnson County or Wichita where you’ll see high schools that look like junior colleges,” he said. “You will see administrative buildings that look like Fortune 500 companies.

“There’s one in Shawnee Mission, people call it the crystal palace…it looks like a corporate headquarters. I have no idea what those people are doing in there. They’re probably on their phones playing games.”

Here’s video of the remarks:

The $35 million Center for Academic Achievement was funded through a $233 million bond issue Shawnee Mission area voters approved with 80 percent of the vote through a mail-in election in January 2015. Those local option budget dollars are required by state law to be used for capital expenses, and not operational — or classroom — expenses.

District leaders said the building represented a number of advantages, including consolidating administrative functions into a single facility instead of having them spread at several facilities across the district. It also provided state-of-the-art facilities for the district’s signature programs in fields like biotechnology, engineering, animation and game design and the culinary arts.

The eastern wing of the building is dedicated to educational spaces while the western wing of the building holds administrative offices. A central atrium between the two provides meeting and presentation spaces.