Thursday, January 09, 2014

Kansas - A Case Study in the GOP's Goal of Destroying Public Education

An educated population is essential to a functioning democracy.  It is also essential for a sound economic future.  But in Kansas, Republicans seem hell bent to destroy public education as they give tax cuts to the wealthy and slash education spending.  Given the GOP's open embrace of ignorance and its love affair with knuckle dragging Neanderthals who are more easily duped led that the educated, the anti-public education moves should come as little surprise.  A dumber populace also benefits the Christofascists in the GOP base who see public education and knowledge as a threat to their fantasy world religious beliefs.  A column in the New York Times looks at the struggle by parents to stop the GOP's efforts to trash public education.  Here are highlights:
KANSAS, like every state, explicitly guarantees a free public education in its Constitution, affirming America’s founding belief that only an educated citizenry can preserve democracy and safeguard individual liberty and freedom.

And yet in recent years Kansas has become the epicenter of a new battle over the states’ obligation to adequately fund public education. Even though the state Constitution requires that it make “suitable provision” for financing public education, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature have made draconian cuts in school spending, leading to a lawsuit that now sits before the state Supreme Court.

The outcome of that decision could resonate nationwide. Forty-five states have had lawsuits challenging the failure of governors and legislators to provide essential resources for a constitutional education. Litigation is pending against 11 states that allegedly provide inadequate and unfair school funding, including New York, Florida, Texas and California.

Many of these lawsuits successfully forced elected officials to increase school funding overall and to deliver more resources to poor students and those with special needs. If the Kansas Supreme Court rules otherwise, students in those states may begin to see the tide of education cuts return.

Kansas’ current constitutional crisis has its genesis in a series of cuts to school funding that began in 2009. The cuts were accelerated by a $1.1 billion tax break, which benefited mostly upper-income Kansans, proposed by Governor Brownback and enacted in 2012.

Overall, the Legislature slashed public education funding to 16.5 percent below the 2008 level, triggering significant program reductions in schools across the state. Class sizes have increased, teachers and staff members have been laid off, and essential services for at-risk students were eliminated.

A victory for the parents would be heartening, but if it comes, would Governor Brownback and legislative leaders uphold the right to education guaranteed to Kansas school children?

The signals thus far are not promising. If the Kansas Supreme Court orders restoration of the funding, legislators are threatening to amend the state’s Constitution by removing the requirement for “suitable” school funding and to strip Kansas courts of jurisdiction to hear school finance cases altogether. And if the amendment fails, they have vowed to defy any court order for increased funding or, at the very least, take the money from higher education.

The Kansas Constitution, like those in other states, demands that every child be given the educational opportunity to meet his or her promise. This requires, at a minimum, adequate and suitable school funding. Governor Brownback and legislators must meet the constitutional command and, by so doing, advance the core American value of equal opportunity for all.
The Republican Party of today is truly something ugly.  It needs to be defeated whenever and wherever possible.

No comments: