GREAT BEND, Kan. - Every child in America deserves an equal chance in life. The best way for every child to receive an equal chance in life is an adequate education. For our children to be equal, they must be given the same skills and resources to prosper in life. Not just for themselves, for the state and community they live in. My Father would always tell me, "An education is something no one can take away from you, no matter what happens. Everything you own may be taken, but you have knowledge and thought on your side."
According to the Kansas State Department of Education, 471,566 children (2007-2008 school year) are enrolled in Public Schools in Kansas. Great Bend, the area I live in, enrolls approximately 3,250 students. Each one of these 3,250 students depend on Kansans to give them an education that will ready them for college, and in turn the real world.
Educating children may be costly, but the lack of an education is even more expensive, to the individual child and the community. An education pays off for the community the child grows up to live in. The Kansas Department of Education has posted a graph which illustrates this exact fact. A child that does not graduate high school is likely to make $23,400 dollars per year, and pay in $4,300 in taxes. A citizen with a Bachelor's degree is likely to make $50,900 per year and pay in $11,900 in taxes. Not only is this a huge salary benefit to the child, but to the community as well. A person with more money, spends more, does not require state assistance, and pays more money in taxes. KSDE reports if head of household members who currently have a high school diploma instead had a Bachelors Degree, the United States economy would benefit by approximately 74 billion dollars. In addition to monetary support within the community, citizens with an adequate education are more likely to think outside of themselves, meaning volunteering within the community and giving time to those who may need it.
It is important to stress the difference between male and female income at a High School drop-out level. A female is likely to make $18,400 per year, while a male is likely to make $25,500. The higher the education level, the higher the gap between male and female income. For those families that have daughters this statistic should be especially concerning. Females that do not have an education or source of income where they can support themselves are more susceptible to become involved in dangerous situations, including abuse.
Beyond the economic benefits of a solid education, the higher education a person obtains the healthier lifestyle choices they will make. Anyone who enters a college student's apartment may not believe this. Pizza boxes and Natural Light cans tend to litter and fill the room. Fast forward years down the line, students will eventually use their education and critical thinking skills.
Public schools teach more than education, they teach children how to function in society. In school we learn the world is not fair, there are bullies who will take our lunch money, and rip up our homework. School teaches us how to deal with them. We learn how to interact with people of different values and beliefs; this lays the foundation for a successful life. Learning how to openly and respectfully communicate with others is pertinent in any job. Every job involves interacting with at least one other individual. Social skills are built early on, and may be just as important as the educational factor in schools.
Taking money from schools in Kansas will deflate these benefits to society and to our children. Kansas children currently have a higher score on both SAT's and ACT's than the nations average. Our children in Kansas have a cutting edge. We are better than average! With an education we are able to attract business in Kansas. What business wants stupid employees? None.
Teachers right here in Great Bend Kansas have been working hard. According to www.citydata.com, in 2003 Great Bend Kansas had a higher drop out rate when compared with the rest of Kansas. Teachers, communities, and parents worked together to change this statistic. Great Bend is now below the state average. It appears they turned this statistic around within one year! Teaching is a difficult job, but our teachers in Kansas have done a fantastic job. We should be thanking them for their service to our nation, not laying off and firing them. Defunding public education will not improve our children's success, instead we will back track. We cannot allow Kansas children's test scores to fall below the national average, and we cannot allow Great Bend's dropout rate to rise above the state average. We must continue with progress.
Legislature is starting to get sneaky. Some have proposed we push the task of raising taxes onto the school districts. Meaning, taxes to fund schools at a local level through property tax. If this were to happen, those who live in richer communities will have better schools. Western Kansas is often forgotten. Great Bend has past experience with a high drop out rate compared with the state average. It can happen again, and this new proposal will certainly not make the numbers, or the future of our kids in Western Kansas any more secure.
With this bill we are teaching our children, right here in Great Bend, their education is not worth as much as children in richer school districts. We are not giving them an equal chance at success. We as parents, citizens, and teachers need to advocate for our children. Children are not voters, and most will not call their State Senator to demand a better education. We need to ensure more cuts to schools are not made. I had a teacher remind me the other day, "No other professions would exist without teachers". How right she is.