Bring it on…fight hard for public school

Driving to work should be pleasurable…until you hear on the radio that three bills are coming to the state legislature that will attack education on three fronts:

  • 100%, dollar for dollar tax credits for sponsoring organizations that provide scholarships to private, charter and parochial schools as long as the student is deemed to be “at risk”.
  • State approval of all locally raised school bond issues before the local voters get to vote
  • Consolidation of all districts that are small into county-wide districts, shrinking the number of districts from 286 down to about 130.  Many small rural towns will lose their schools as they will be closed and students will ride buses 30 miles to school.

What’s up in Kansas?  A full assault on public education.

My state, born 155 years ago, has been the home to many things you wouldn’t expect.  Names you’ll know…from Amelia Earhart to Ike Eisenhower to John Brown to Alf Landon to Langston Hughes to Ron Evans to Gordon Parks to William Allen White to Bob Dole to Kathleen Sebelius.  It’s this quirky blend of where you can still name your neighbors and hang out in art galleries on First Fridays.  Where kids still say “Yes ma’am” and “Yes sir” and hold the door for their elders.  Where we love to breath in fresh air and are inspired by wide open skies and miles and miles of open farmland.  The Breadbasket of the World some say….where hard work and sweat are the norm.  We are the citizens who paved the way for deseg with the Brown vs the Board of Education court case.  Home to the Kauffman Center that helps the little “guy” dream big and start their own business–teaching more than 350,000 men and women how to become entrepreneurs.  Like I said we are a quirky place..full of sharp contrasts.

Why do I mention all this?  I’m in despair and losing hope that somehow we’ve lost our way…forgetting that our state and people stand for fair play and common sense.  But I need to remind myself that we have fought off droughts, dust storms, crop failures, and endure living in Tornado Alley.  We rebound.  We pick ourselves up, dust off and start off again….optimistic that what’s to come will be better than what we’ve endured.

I pray that this latest attack on things we hold dear, our precious public education system, endures while we somehow untangle ourselves from the crazed politicans that hold hostage our state legislature and from the dreaded Koch Brothers with their conservative spew. Our state was born as bloody Kansas, fighting abolitionists during the Civil War. From that beginning we were brave enough to fight off locusts, droughts, the Dust Bowl and tornadoes, we need to believe we are Kansans.  And we will prevail.

Many of you aren’t Kansans. So why do I babble on about my state?

I am certain that your own state’s history will show bravery in the face of adversity and attack. All states have their challenges and I’m sure yours is no different than mine.  Find what makes your state full of p&^$ and vinegar because we’re going to need to draw deeply on our history of citizenship and civil rebellion…

  1. Dust off your civic lessons from senior year’s American Government.   I write to encourage you because we all must win these battles within our states and our localities.
  2. Fight hard.  Fight fair.   Stop complacency.  They haven’t won unless we give up and don’t fight back.  We must not lose our schools and the public education that comes with them.
  3. Become an insurgent.  Vote.
  4. Vote to unseat the usurpers and replace them with people who remember what made your cities and communities wonderful places to live.  Vote for people who support a free and high quality education for all children.
  5. Be rebellious and work to return good people to our state legislatures….maybe walk your neighborhood and speak to people about how to take back what so many fought hard and spilled blood to win for us.

God speed.


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  • NicolHemphill

    I really hope those 3 bills DO NOT pass!!!!

    • marsharatzel

      Hanging on and then using my civic power

      Me too Nicole.  It is scary and you just have to take a deep breath and do the best you can to influence policy makers.  In the next election cycle, there will be opportunity to vote a better set of legislators into office.

  • DavidCohen

    At a loss
    I wish I had something encouraging or useful to say. I’ve started and revised this comment three or four times and come up with … I hear you. I feel for you. I share your fear and even moments of despair for the future public education. I agree we can’t give in to the despair, we have to fight, but wow – it’s going to be a long, long, bitter struggle the way things are going right now. In more politically conservative states it seems like we need more conservatives with a conscience, a sense of history, a sense of the world we live in – people who are willing to say yes, smaller government, but also, government must serve vital public interests. We can’t compromise on that basic principle.
    My heart goes out to you and everyone in this existential fight for our schools and ultimately, for the character of our country.

    • marsharatzel

      Fighting onwards

      Thanks David and I appreciate your kind words.

      I really mean what I say about realizing that I come from a place with history…history of pioneers that created something from nothing.  I can’t imagine how hard that must have been.  So I’m going to try and channel that toughness and grittiness….and not lose hope and fight the good fight.

      I wrote this because there are so few people in the Collaboratory from the middle of the country….from those big sky, big farm kinds of places.  I wanted to help remind them that we fight too just like the big city, urban spots….like all the southern states.  We can prevail too.

  • jelmerevers

    Great post Ratzel, it really

    Great post Ratzel, it really moved me. Take some comfort in that we are fighting this fight worldwide and that there have been profound turnarounds, we’ve seen amazing changes in the Netherlands in just three years because teachers took a stand, and more than that we took the initiative. Our motto in “Flip the System” and “The Alternative” is from Hillel the elder and it guides us every day: “If I am not for myself who is for me? And being for my own self, what am ‘I’? And if not now, when?” Good luck!

  • Nina Morley Daye

    We hear you
    Well said!!!!! Even though I live in the south, my roots are in the Midwest with the Homesteaders in Minnesota. Even if that was not the case, I would still stand by you. We need strong public education that makes things fair and that uses all of our resources to the fullest. We cannot afford to build on the short sighted, sound bite antagonist foundation the Koch brothers and others are laying at this time. It will not support the weight of our society.

  • gatot


    I agree with you. I hope they are can make their education system fix and make an improvement.

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