Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Unleashing the UltraCon Flying Monkeys on Kansas Public Education

For any Kansans who still find it hard to accept that our governor and ultraconservative legislators have declared war, and released their flying monkeys, on public education, I would urge you to read the following summary of last evening’s (3/1/16) MainStream Coalition forum on public education. Panelists included Reps Melissa Rooker (Republican), Nancy Lusk (Democrat) and Jarrod Ousley (Democrat). You can also view a recorded version here.

For our ultraconservative state leaders who subscribe to supply side economics and many of the discredited ideas of Arthur Laffer, the privatization of public education is a NECESSARY component of the march to zero income taxes. There is no way to get there without drastically reducing our spending on public education, as it comprises the majority of our state's budget. And greatly increasing the privatization of public education is the only way to do that and still have some form of large scale education in this state. This goal by the way aligns nicely with the goal of very limited government and the goal of greatly expanding the availability of private education based on religious and other ideological factors (or greatly narrowing what public education can teach). 

In addition, there is a large amount of money to be made from privatizing our public schools, and Kansas must look like a vast, untapped oil field of private school opportunity to those who operate and invest in such enterprises. I’d love to see some reporters look into the potential of such organizations quietly lobbying our legislators on this from behind the curtain.

We do know that ALEC, KPI (and the infamous Dave Trabert) and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are not so quietly influencing and applying pressure on our state legislators, as well as acting the part of the Trickster, spinning and spreading their memes of misinformation. Major sources of funding for these groups include Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries, Ivan Crossland of Crossland Construction and David Murfin of Murfin Drilling Corp. In addition to funding, they also provide their own form of legislative arm twisting.  

What do these waves of flying monkeys that have been set loose on our state’s public education system consist of, a few of you may ask who’ve only just clicked your heels and returned from Oz? Well, besides implementing the block grant which reduces the amount of funding schools and districts have available for day to day operations, they’ve essentially laundered money in order to take dollars away from public education and give it to private (including religious) schools. They have eliminated teacher due process. Some are trying to criminalize teachers for teaching certain material that’s been approved by their local school boards. They’ve moved local elections, as step one in their plan to make local elections, including school board elections, partisan. They continue overstepping their authority by trying to eliminate the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards (KCCRS), which are based on the Common Core and NGSS, without anything ready to take their place. And the list goes on and on. Break it, then replace it.

And yesterday we saw another revenue shortfall. This time we were $53 million below estimates, and the governor then announced $17 million in cuts to higher education. And today Senator Wagle called for across the board cuts to address the continuing revenue shortfalls, which would impact all education in the state. Yet the governor still refuses to entertain any change to the income tax cuts. But why would he? Its forcing us to shrink government with his presumable hoped for added “benefit” of increased privatization of public education. Ideology and ignorance, aided by greed and apathy, have been waging war on public education in Kansas since Governor Brownback took office.

The question is, what will it take for the apathy to turn to anger and action in mass? The 600+ email reaction to the school district consolidation bill provides a good clue – people have to feel the impacts on their own lives and tie it back to the ultraconservatives. So, will continued legislative and governor anti-public education actions, along with the efforts of public education advocates, create enough of a link to our personal lives in time to generate change this fall in the legislative landscape? Or even limit the damage done the remainder of this legislative session? I don’t know, but it keeps me up at night. That, and flying monkeys.