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…
- 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.
- 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.
- Become an insurgent. Vote.
- 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.
- 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.