Election: best hope for schools

I really didn?t want to write about our state government. Again. In fact, I wanted to avoid politics altogether this month.

But I feel as though my hand has been forced by the recent revelation that all our Kansas legislators are up for reelection this fall, both representatives and senators. Every one of them. We may finally be in a position to exert some pressure on them to change their ways of thinking and to abandon hanging tough with the governor, who has stubbornly hung on to his failed policies.

I attended a legislative coffee with our 74th District Rep. Don Schroeder late last month. Nearly everyone there was a local official, though there were only a handful of us in attendance. Maybe two handfuls. I like Don. I think he is a moderate Republican who is doing the best he can to be a voice of reason in a wind of extremism.

Of course, my principal focus is on public education. I teach at Hillsboro High School, my daughter-in-law is an art instructor in a Wichita elementary school, and my son has just completed his elementary ed credentials and will be looking for a job for next year. So I straight up asked our representative why the governor and his ilk hate public education and public educators so passionately. I pointed out that not one move by Republicans in the past six years of Gov. Brownback?s reign has been positive for us. Let?s review.

In 2012, the Legislature fired a torpedo into the hull of the ship of the Sunflower State by exempting all businesses from income taxes. Since then, there has been a sea of red ink flowing into Topeka. The latest estimates place the negative number at $800 million.

School budgets have been cut and cut and cut some more, resulting in a couple of major lawsuits, which claimed that the state was not doing its constitutional duty to ?adequately fund? classrooms.

The most recent ruling, by the state supreme court no less, has directed the Legislature to fix the inequities in the distribution of money to districts by July, or schools must close.

This is not a suggestion; it is an order. And it is real.

Residents of our formerly progressive and populist state who don?t want this to happen need to send a collective message to their legislators that playing politics with our kids is not acceptable.

Second, state Republicans continue their assault on teachers by stripping us of due process rights two years ago. Now they are going after community college and other state college employees? rights.

Third, rather than admit that his tax policies have failed, and because the highway fund has no more money left to bleed, the governor is dipping into our retirement funds.

There are others examples, but I think I have made my point.

As instructors, we were once considered assets to the state. We now feel like we are thought of as liabilities. How many of us can be driven from the profession? That seems to be the goal.

We are stuck with our governor for two more years, thanks to his narrow reelection in 2014. It is a difficult, probably impossible, task to recall a Kansas governor. One feeble attempt a year or so ago went nowhere. So that?s why I suggest the best approach may be to put some heat on the representatives and senators who need our votes to return to Topeka.

We need to remind them that Gov. Brownback has a historically low approval rating. Last time I checked, it was somewhere south of 20 percent. We need to point out that the esteemed former budget director Duane Goossen, a Marion County native, has been sounding the alarm about the financial state of the state for several years now. (On a side note, he?d make a heck of a governor himself. Just sayin?.)

Brownback continues to insist he will not retract his failed tax plan. He says he believes the policies of his administration are working. We just need to give them time. But that?s the problem. We have run out of time, and I am hoping, patience.

Bob Woelk teaches English and journalism at Hillsboro Middle/High School. He can be reached at woelk@embarqmail.com.