The idea of foreign interference on elections has been a hot-button issue in the United States since the 2016 election.

Though it may not be at the same scale as a foreign adversary like Russia meddling in a Presidential election, we are experiencing outside forces trying to influence an election right here in Emporia.

The culprit, in this case, is the Kansas Policy Institute. The “nonprofit” which has links to the Koch brothers — of course, they don’t advertise that — appears to be doing its best to convince voters to oppose a proposed bond for improvements at Emporia Public Schools. These upgrades range from 21st-century classrooms to student services to, perhaps most importantly, better security.

Here is where I should point out that Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert — who you will see making his case on this page — claims his organization “isn’t taking a position on what voters should do.” That’s what he wrote in a comment he posted on The Emporia Gazette’s website on Aug. 8, anyway.

The organization is, thus far, trying to portray itself as a nonpartisan group which is simply doing what the school district and the media won’t by getting all of the facts out to the voters. On the organization’s media arm, The Sentinel, website it states: “We hold government and mainstream media accountable for providing complete, accurate and unbiased information so that citizens can make their own informed decisions on matters of public policy.”

But, I ask each of you, if KPI is truly just looking out for Emporia’s taxpayers and doesn’t actually have a horse in the race, why is it spending all this time and money — including advertising in today’s paper — on what certainly looks and sounds to me like a “Vote No” campaign? What’s that old saying? Money talks.

So, one might ask, what stake does KPI hold in the USD 253 bond election? It’s a good question. After all, the organization is headquartered in Wichita and has a second office in Johnson County. I could speculate as to why KPI is suddenly taking such a keen interest in Emporia, but at the end of the day it just plain appears that the organization and its subsidiaries, such as The Sentinel, are actually anything but “unbiased.”

Browse the website and you’ll see they are also not “taking a position” on bond elections in Newton and Tongonoxie — two more places where one should ask why they’re getting involved in the first place.

The bottom line is, Kansas Policy Institute and, as such, The Sentinel, it seems is opposed to any taxes. One doesn’t have to spend a great deal of time on their respective websites to see that. And I get it. Nobody LIKES paying taxes, but they are a necessary evil when it comes to funding essential services that we rely on every day. I don’t like seeing more than a third of each paycheck taken out for taxes any more than the next person, but if my house catches fire, I’m sure glad I can count on the fire department to show up.

My point is, there are some things worth paying for, and I would argue our children’s education is one of them.

Emporians should know their facts when casting their ballot; it’s an important measure. Personally, I’m going to trust friends and neighbors in our community — those who will actually feel the effects of this election, no matter the outcome. That includes the school board we elected and entrusted to do what was right for our district. It includes the parents who have children in the district and the teachers whose livelihood depends on the success of our schools.

We, as a community, should not let an outside organization and its money — no matter who is providing the funding — that will not feel the impact of the election in any way, determine our future. Don’t let foreign interference influence how your tax money is spent.

Zach Hacker

News and Online Editor

(20) comments


They thought if they acted quickly, and with the mail in ballots, that they could slip it by taxpayers a little easier than having it on the regular ballot in November. How obvious was that? Very obvious. Don't let the people have the time to get informed is a recent tactic used, and be aware that that usually means the people really need to get informed on that issue! Yep, they almost slipped it by. Maybe the Gazette was just part of the picture "Meant to be".


Tried to slip it by??? Think about that one for a second. A mail ballot sent to every registered voter, who would then have three weeks to research the issue before returning their ballot is slipping something by? Or, put it on a low turnout election year ballot where typically less than 20% of registered voters even show up to vote. Where a voter would have just a few minutes to decide on their vote with zero chance to get informed if unaware of the issue. If I were trying to slip something by, I certainly wouldn’t want a ballot sent to EVERY SINGLE VOTER.

Be against the issue if you choose, but stop with the ulterior motives and deception crap. The school district has bent over backwards to be open, transparent and upfront.

Dave Trabert

The Emporia school district says “the state” will contribute $53 million toward bond and interest payments of its proposed bond issue. The subtle distinction is that “the state” is merely a conduit; taxpayers all around the state will pick up the $53 million tab.

So, while only Emporia residents get to vote on the school bond proposal, every Kansan has a stake in the election because they’ll be paying part of the cost if it passes. The Gazette's attempt to stifle free speech is appalling but Kansas Policy Institute and The Sentinel are not deterred by The Gazette's bullying. We'll continue to provide citizens with facts, while holding media and government accountable.


Post your funding sources I'm holding your high belief in transparency accountable. Dave logic: someone posting a piece against my agenda bullying


I totally support the Bond issue. Also, dude, accepting that Voters across the State will then be taxed for Emporia's School Bond. IT ALSO works the OTHER WAY, as You, Me, I, also pay for other Cities, Counties Schools. It isn't like Emporia and Lyon County IS GETTING all other Kansas People to help pay for their School. EMPORIA AND LYON COUNTY are ALREADY helping pay for new and updated schools--in Topeka, Kansas City, Kansas, Wichita, etc! GET IT?

show me

Mr. Trabert, Thank you for your article. I appreciate KPI analyzing issues such as this bond issue and pointing out what is so often glossed over or attempted to be covered up. Don't let the venom of anyone responding to your article deter you or KPI.


I think it's ridiculous that The Gazette's Zach Hacker just had to get an opposing article in the same publication. The Gazette and Mr. Hacker react poorly when someone has a different opinion to their pet projects. Maybe instead of The Gazette and its staff wanting to be so quick to cast shade on opposing views to theirs and feisty towards an organization like KPI, their time could be better spent in the careful ***PROOFREADING**** of their newspaper.


Because of the lack of detail proofreading and oversight in what is actually printed in The Gazette, the bond election has to be delayed. Quoting from another Gazette article "The question will now be moved to the Nov. 5, 2019, General Election Ballot. The delay was caused when required publication guidelines for the bond election fell short of legal requirements due to a legal publication error by The Emporia Gazette." That is reported to be costing USD 253 over $30,000 from printing/etc already spent that will now not be used. To point out, The Gazette had the proper information, because, as reported in the same Gazette article "Required bond information was received by The Gazette in accordance with set deadlines, and was published for two weeks, but the notice did not run in its entirety."


Show me Logic: Dave Trabert, who writes for a conservative website with a platform, writes an article to disprove a notion fair. Zach Hacker -- who writes for a website that allows both liberals and conservatives to both communicate their view-- writes an article to disprove a notion = not fair. No one is spitting venom at him we just want answers from him like he wants answers from others. If you go to Dave's twitter mentions he's about as transparent as brick wall when gaged with questions. Dave Trabert twitter quote " Kansas has a big spending problem, not a revenue problem. Kansans don't need more taxes; government needs to make better use of the excessive taxes already taken."

Trickledown economics don't work, and his idea of a free market when it comes to schools is downright scary. How can you rationalize schools should be a capitalistic market like Amazon and Apple where those not successful bite the dust???

Furthermore, a delay on the vote is not necessarily a bad thing it will give people more time to figure out the facts and maybe administer a better solution than what is proposed.

show me

Thank you for quoting Dave Trabert. You wrote "Dave Trabert twitter quote " Kansas has a big spending problem, not a revenue problem. Kansans don't need more taxes; government needs to make better use of the excessive taxes already taken." " That is so true!! I'm really glad to see it written here for more people to read. All too many people don't realize when enough is enough for taxes. The careful use of people's hard-earned money spent in taxes is all too often not done.


Here's just one example. USD 253 Board decided they just had to have this special mail in ballot. Why couldn't that vote have waited until the general election in November? Because they didn't want to wait, and they were fine with the approving of spending the extra money it would take to hold it earlier. Someone(s) thought they could get it voted in easier instead of waiting until November. It would have only been 2 months to wait. Now, they have to wait until November anyway and they have lost all the extra money it took to attempt to hold it earlier, upwards of $30,000!! That sure is a good use of tax money that never had to have been spent in the first place!! How many classrooms in USD 253 would that wasted money have bought teaching items for this year?


The list goes on and on with wasteful spending of tax money. If you don't think tax receiving entities, such as USD 253, are getting enough tax revenue, I encourage you to send them a check anytime for as much as you want. You can also will them all your assets. However, some of us know they already get adequate money from taxes, but they don't use what they get efficiently.


What is there left to figure out or discuss about the bond proposal, better solution or whatever? I thought it was already all set up to be the very best, the most efficient with all plans optimized, and exactly what was needed, and nothing less would be right. If that's not the case, then why was it even attempted to be voted on? This shows many of us how poorly tax money is spent, and that will be even further amplified if USD 253 decides to do any compromising to what has already been proposed, whether they want to increase or decrease the bond amount or the scope of what it is to cover.


I will agree with you the optics did not look good on the districts behalf by acting so quickly. If they floated the idea out via email or letter to citizens about the idea of a potential bond to fix certain issues facing schools FAR in advance than perhaps more people would not be as perceptive in using their tax dollars on the bond.

In addition, the district PowerPoint could have been more detailed in a bulleted list of what exactly they are going to use it on and provide pictures of the current state some things they want to fix are currently in. Do I read into this as them being shady or “trying to hide something” no. I just think it was rushed and a little lazy of them not providing a full detailed report of what the bond is/was going to accomplish.

You point out that we should cut spending on schools as the solution to save Kansas money. Why can’t solution be look at ways to make money (besides offering tax breaks to Kochs) or to cut in other areas instead of schools? It seems like you have a vendetta against schools in some regard. Also I don’t think it is valuable to have the “strict parent” philosophy by thinking, “I grew up and went to bad school these kids should do the same to save me money.” It would be kind of sad is if as a nation we allowed our schools to get worse than they were in previous generations without exploring all possible solutions.

The main takeaway I have from your comment is that you think taxes can be or are wastefully spent more often than not. I get it no ones like to waste money, but I encourage you look at the things the United States spends its tax revenue on every day and proceed to write letters to President Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, and Carter asking why taxes are spent the way they are.

Your tax dollars goes towards spending $45 billion a year to “war” in Afghanistan. I would say that is wastefully spent. Your tax dollars go towards president’s vacations and golf outings. Wastefully spent. Your tax dollars go candidates campaigning for reelection. Wastefully spent.

Regardless of how you vote tax dollars are going to be spent and wasted, but two things it goes towards that are necessary to succeed in America today are education and healthcare. This isn’t the 1920s were you could get by having deficiencies in both an education and healthcare.

My main point being is when the government spends money federal and state their priority should be to allocate just like any budget the most important things first by how much they need and let the rest fall in line. We can agree to disagree on the correct amount of allocation for schools to have, but I think it is disingenuous to state the first solution to solving a spending problem would be cut something that is *required* in life such as going to school; instead it would be working from the budget bottom up like you do in a household or business.

To give you an example if a business is struggling very few owners will cut their salary (ask your boss to take a pay cut and see how that goes) they will instead work from the bottom up looking at ways to save every penny which could range from getting rid of coffeemakers or part-time employees. Why shouldn’t states do the same if you are comparing them to a business?


The Emporians who have enlisted the help of Kansas Policy Institute realized they needed help to navigate the numbers game of the school district budget process and bond issue language. Should we say that the company hired to design the school project is a foreign influence? Of course not. That is as ridiculous as the authors assertion even though the designer stands to make a great deal of money from this. The author's (and many others in education) problem with KPI is that is does not just swallow what is put out by the school districts and local governments and asks the uncomfortable questions as to why things are done so inefficiently and expensively. The real issue is why do honest questions about the bond issue make people so uncomfortable regardless of who is asking.


You are right where it is an issue that people get uncomfortable when you ask them tough questions especially about money, but it is even more of a problem hiring an institute to explain how interest a bond works. I think Emporians could find a left leaning source to tell them the bond is absolutely worth it. Answer is somewhere in middle.


Is Emporia the ONLY School in Kansas with School Bonds? Please let me know.


Please also Explain: It is mostly Kansas REPUBLICANS who are on School Boards, INCLUDING Emporia. It is DEMOCRATS who are doing it. Steve Sauder, a strong Emporia Republican has Supported EVERY School Bond...since I have been in Emporia, starting 1988.


Why would we need another left leaning source when we have the gazette?


Yeah the gazette sure is left leaning allowing a right leaning guy to post an article; if KPI let had left leaning views on their website than I would see your point but they don't. Your comparison about the school designer designing something for the school as a foreign influencer is an ignominious comparison; in that relationship both parties benefit through someone paying for a product that is the same no matter what happens if it were to come to fruition. For example, USD253 builds a building through x contractor building will be roughly similar regardless of contractor.

It is not 100% factual that bonds help schools nor is it 100% factual that they do not help schools, but when you look at the data as a whole there is a tendency that more money towards schools promotes better education. In KPI case they presenting information in a way on their website that shows spending money on education is futile. They believe it is more cost effective to spend 6000 per pupil and graduation 50% of kids (6000/50) = 120 per grad rather than $13,000 graduating 95% = 136. (I would post this link but KPI site is down for "maintenance" ironically).

He is a foreign influencer because at the end of the day we do not know 100% who is right and who is wrong therefore any person giving an opinion is an influencer including you and myself. My problem is not people saying no to the bond my problem is where people get their information; we have google why could people not research hundreds of sites stating both benefits and cons to taxes in relation to schools to come to their opinion. Instead they hire one guy to shape their opinion that sees no benefit of the other side. To put it frankly, listening to Dave is like listening to an ESU fan listing all the reasons Washburn is worse (Clear clear bias).

I want to believe Dave that schools could operate like a business and run for $1 a year and be successful. Dave logic: Kansas is spending more than they are making; we need to reduce spending so he picks something that 99.999999% of people believe is a must in life: an education. Makes sense cut something people use and actually need. Look at it this way if you were in an economic distressed time as a family would you cut the most important things out of your budget (food & shelter) or would cut the least important things ( Air Jordan shoes, alcohol). I would venture you would say the latter, as would KPI. In this case KPI’s goal is to cut something the 1% does not use as they go to Kapaun, Carroll, St Thomas Aquinas, etc. It makes sense to cut out something you don’t use, but it doesn’t make sense- in my belief-- to be a sell-out and do it at the expense of the overall citizens of Kansas & to save money for people who are multibillionaire’s.

People complain that CNN and Fox news are bias and yet they turn to guy is also bias makes sense.


I find it interesting that a reply to a piece on the editorial page happens to show up on the same day right next to the story it is trying to discredit and even mentions said article. I guess if the Gazette sees something they disagree with that is submitted to their paper they are quick to counter and I mean lightning quick. Perhaps that could be construed as bullying as Mr. Trabert asserted.

Your statement that more money spent trends toward better education is unfounded. As a nation as well as a state we spend more and more on education and our outcomes have either flat lined or worse. There are many factors that influence this but it seems that all that some people can think to do is spend more money.

Your problem with the information that KPI puts out is that it does not fit your ideology even though they get their information off of official state and local school district sites.

I believe that most in the community are not opposed to spending some money to do certain things in the district but feel that this bond is excessive. For instance, if my memory serves me the enrollment for Emporia High is roughly 25% lower now than when the last bond was approved in 2000. If that is the case, I find it ridiculous to be building all the additional classroom and gym space. And please don’t give me this crap that those opposed don’t care about the kids. That is an argument from someone that thinks as deeply as a rain puddle. Security is something worth spending money on as well as repairs and the like, but soaking the taxpayers for an additional 3 mills more than before is excessive and will only discourage businesses and people from moving to a place where property taxes are already some of the highest in the state despite having a low per capita income. We as a community can come up with a better plan than what has been proposed.


Brandon, I find it interesting that you are surprised that someone in the community who disagreed with Dave wrote a response to him. It takes five minutes to type an opinion piece for someone whose job is to write articles for a living (Hacker), so I’m shocked you find how fast he wrote it-- surprising to be honest. As for the bullying being asserted basically I can use Dave argument and say you are bullying me by responding with a differing viewpoint (You are not by the way and I appreciate your long and detailed responses unlike Dave so thank you) so that should or cannot be construed as bullying.

My statement about more money in education is unfounded. Here is what I found using Dave’s sources and KPI since they don’t fit my ideology I will use their sources to make my argument and I will use ALL students as that is what tax payers are paying for not just at risks kids like Dave try’s to notion.

Grade 8 Math 2017 Rankings Top 10 in () is spending per pupil by state rank using 2016 data most recent I could find from the sources: Mass (7) , Minn (17), NH (10), NJ (3), Virginia (24) , Wyoming (6) , Nebraska (18), ND (15), & Wisconsin (23). Kansas rank – 20th in overall math (32 in per pupil)

Takeaway: Kansas spends the least per student overall and trails in performance. Also spending too much money leads to diminishing returns ie New York.

Grade 8 reading 2017 Rankings Top 10 same format as math: Mass (7), NJ (3), NH (10), VT (4), CONN (2), Indiana (34), WA (21), CO (38), Idaho (49), Penn (9) Kansas rank 20th in reading 32per pupil spending.

Takeaway out of the top ten 3 states spend less than Kansas and have better results and if you were to expand these results 4 of 19 schools who rank higher spend less per pupil than Kansas.

There is some correlation to spending money, but like you said how much is enough. If you think Bond amount is excessive totally understand and can see where you are coming from, but to say putting additional money towards something has no effect I disagree with. I never said people who vote no don’t care about kids I said that directed towards Dave—obviously if you are a tax payer of the community and don’t want to pay more taxes and you see the benefits of public education it is your decision.

Couldn’t find a stat on Emporia high enrollment in 2000 but I’ll take overall district enrollment. It wouldn’t be appropriate to cite schools losses in enrollment when bond is for whole district and multiple schools not just ehigh. Its highest since 1992 was 5029 in 2003 and 2019 was 4679 rounding each 5k and 4700= % decrease in district: (4700-5000)/5000 = 6% change. And to give the notion that education is served better by a higher ratio of teacher to kids or with less space where kids are huddled like cattle inside a classroom is not correct either.

You are harping on the fact that high taxes mean it is discouraging for people and businesses to move to Kansas. News flash they wouldn’t move to Kansas if they were lower. Our state is a joke to business owners and if they were accounting savvy wouldn’t have to worry about taxes. They don’t want to move here because of how old and conservative the state. Why did Apple invest in a location in Iowa even though it has one of the highest income taxes? Why is Amazon located in WA they have high taxes? Why does Wyoming not have business pouring and a surge in population growth since they have lsome of the lowest taxes?

Like I have said a no problem if you vote against the bond because you think our schools are fine the way they are my. My problem is not with KPI ideology it is there is that they analyze a small group of the population and then claim it as the whole population being inefficient. It is bias and unfair to the whole. I gave Dave the chance to change my mind and he presented me with research only analyzing at risk kids and then writing it off as a whole district issue.

I do agree with your last comment that there is a possibility of coming up with a better plan.


The KPI is informing taxpayers, and I know that "forces that be" frown on that. You all got to quit treating the people here like "mushrooms" (you all know that old saying). If the schools have needs, maybe look at where cuts can be made, just like we do at home. The schools rate so poorly here despite being among the newest schools I have seen in KS lately. Maybe look at admin as they generally tend to be overpaid and with an overabundance of people in those positions. I am glad that people are being informed and there is nothing wrong with that whoever is doing it. People have the right to make an informed choice, remember, that is still allowed in our country - oh geesh, this is coming from the liberal Gazette, and we all know how they like to spend other people's money! Doesn't matter where information comes from, and I have found KPI to be a creditable source, as long as it assists people in making the best choices for themselves and their communities. Spend, spend, spend! Every time you bring up the Gazette online, some entity has their hand out for more, more more!


You most only travel to schools in Lyon County if you think Emporia has some of the newest schools in Kansas. Go Maize, Maize South, Derby or up north to the Olathe Northwest, Olathe West, Lawrence highs schools. I get that there is more money up there, but we should be putting our resources into schools similar to how they are and they put a lot, and it is almost like a coincidence that they are some of the best schools in Kansas.


Zach Hacker even though you are a Vikings fan you are a true Emporian who cares about this community I could tell that from your days as the sport editor for the gazette; great, great article. Dave needs to respond to this in order to be transparent.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.