Monday, April 7, 2014

Warning: Education Rant Ahead!

Ordinarily, I try to not stray far from the areas of reading, libraries, the effects of technology on libraries, and activities at HPL here on this blog. But today I am going to stray off topic and into the realm of education, migration, and the economy. With that in mind, the following are my opinions, not my library's, and I am expressing them to blow off steam...

First, education: Our great state of Kansas has long struggled with providing public education. Wide-open spaces, few people, and a great divide between the rich and the poor have long caused strife and acrimony. Mostly, we've ended up in court because we can't decide how to solve the problem ourselves as citizens and law-makers.

This past go-round has been different. The courts ruled that the legislature needed to better-fund schools. The legislature though, caught up in the lunacy that is "all taxes are bad, no taxes would be Nirvana", are on the verge of crippling our state by failing to provide any real solutions to the education issue. The group to suffer? Maybe you think I'm going to say the poor or disadvantaged. Of course, they always end up with the raw deal. No, the people who are going to suffer most are all of us. There are so many things wrong with the current funding proposals, I am not at all sure where to start.

Lawmakers in Kansas seem fixated on destroying public schooling. They hate Common Core (you can read the standards yourself at that link). Whatever. I hated No Child Left Behind because of its good intentions but unintended outcome of forcing teachers to teach the test so that they didn't lose their jobs. After reading about it, I can't imagine Common Core will be worse. What I find outrageous about the funding bill are the attempts to eliminate more taxes while supposedly fulfilling the funding obligations of the State. For example, Kansas lawmakers have tied tax breaks for corporations to private schooling in the education funding bill. What? If the schools are broken, we'll give you money to go elsewhere RATHER THAN SPEND THAT MONEY TO FIX THE SCHOOLS? What happened to providing for the common good? I am a tax payer with children in public school and in no way do I want to support an "opt out" philosophy. Well, hey, at least we're not embarrassing ourselves debating evolution or something.

The real problem though is my second and third gripes;  Kansas lawmakers keep cutting taxes to businesses saying that it's the only way to grow the economy. Information has come out that shows Kansas, despite gutting its revenue streams lags all states around us in economic growth post-recession. The State collects less in taxes, but has shifted much of the burden to counties and municipalities. The economy is still sluggish. That leads to more people moving away. Of course, that has been a topic of worry since I was in school some 30 years ago. Youth leave and never come back. Interestingly, the trend of folks (not just youth, but all ages) leaving the state at a faster rate than before has accelerated.

Here's my theory: people want to live in a place with a sense of responsibility. A place where corporate interest is balanced by responsible taxation. No one wants to move to a state where you can (theoretically, 'cause it ain't happenin' here!) get a great job, but have terrible, under-funded schools in towns that have to charge high property taxes just to keep the doors open. Would we all like to pay zero taxes? Of course! But reality intrudes into that simplistic desire. We want good education to build smart, capable young workers, to attract grow.

OK, rant over. If you've stuck it out this long, here's a picture of Batman riding an elephant as your prize:

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