Thursday, March 31, 2011

Why the School funding fight is "THE" fight!

Kansas, like most States, is now dealing with a profound revenue shortfall with some estimating the gap as wide as $550 million dollars. To close that funding gap, the Kansas Legislature proposes that we 'shrink the size of Government' by cutting staff, services, and increasing privatization. Proponents of this approach argue that the worsening economic conditions necessitate this approach, and we simply can no longer afford to provide the level of services that we have become accustomed to. Proponents of this approach argue that as we begin to 'shrink the size of Government', and 'decrease the tax burden', businesses will rebound, new businesses will be attracted to our State, bringing new jobs and thereby expanding the tax base, and our State economy will rebound. And proponents of this approach argue that to solve the problem, we need to reduce funding to public schools...

What these proponents WON'T tell you is that we created this revenue shortfall by pushing corporate and business tax cuts thorough our legislature every successive year since 1997. What they won't tell you is the legislature has passed more than $668 million dollars in tax cuts since 2008! There's even a bill in our legislature RIGHT NOW (SB95) that would phase out ALL corporate income taxes over the next five years and reduce revenues even further. But they would ask that we ignore this totally reckless fiscal policy, treat these tax-cuts as sacrosanct, and allow them to make up the shortfall by de-funding our children's education.

We have fought for years in favor of reforms and programs shown to improve educational outcomes for children. We have fought for smaller class sizes - Just like the private schools and affluent districts maintain for their children. We have fought for highly qualified teachers - Just like the private schools and affluent districts maintain for their children. We have fought for up-to-date books and equipment - Just like the private schools and affluent districts maintain for their children. And now, under the guise of solving a revenue shortfall that we created through irresponsible and unaffordable business and corporate tax-cuts that have produced NO stimulative affect here in Kansas, we are now witness to our legislature acting to de-fund those reforms and do irreparable damage to our public school system. 

- And if any of you feel that last statement was hyperbolic, I would ask you to remember that for all the talk about running the schools more like a business - Public schools are NOT BUSINESSES. The students within them are not commodities or products - their progress is not tied to an assembly line that can be stopped and restarted. If in response to our current budget challenges, we diminish the quality of education that we provide to our children for the next year, or two, or five - Those are years that those children will not get back! They will move forward in an increasingly competitive economy with limited skills and abilities courtesy of our supply-side fetishes and real-world myopia. - 

In response to the proposed actions of the State, school districts around Kansas are making plans to increase class sizes, limit transportation, close down schools, limit access to extra-curricular and enrichment type activities to families with enough disposable income to pay for them, use older books and materials, etc. My friends on the other side of this issue say that we MUST do this so that we don't pass this crippling debt on to our children. 

But I've said, and I'll say again: It is immoral for us to pay our debts for services that we've enjoyed with money that we've taken away from our children's education.  It is wrong and we can not remain silent while our children's ability to compete in a global world economy is traded for short term corporate profits. 

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