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One Cent Will Save Public Education

By Christopher Renner
News | March 17, 2010

TOPEKA, Kan. - On March 16, a crowd estimated to be 1,000 parents, teachers and students rallied at the east steps of Capitol in Topeka to protest potential future cuts in education funding. Demanding that schools get "what's right, not what's left," and "SOS - save our schools," the crowd's chants echoed in down the halls of the Capitol. Photobucket
AYF rally particpants

Following the Montoy lawsuit in 2005, funding levels substantially improved educational results and programs across the state. Kansas children were learning more, were achieving high academic standards and graduating from high school ready to contribute to our state.

Still the funding never reached the levels ascribed in the Kansas Legislature's own cost study (2001 Augenblick and Myers). This study found that funding needed for Kansas schools - now nine years ago - ranged from $5,811 per pupil (large districts) to $8,541 per pupil (small districts); with additional costs for: special education: $7,400-$12,000 per pupil; at-risk: $1,900-$2,600 per pupil; English Language Learner (ELL): $1,200 to $6,000 per pupil. In order to be a "Successful School," the average base cost of $4,547 per pupil was proposed.

With the cuts Gov. Parkinson had to put in place when the legislature failed to adequately address the economic crisis in 2009, schools are now at funding levels prior to the 2005 Supreme Court's intervention. In fact they have been pushed back to 1996 levels. If that wasn't bad enough, the schools are serving over 11,000 additional students, and the conservatives in the legislature show no sign of doing what is right for Kansas children.

Tuesday's rally title, Adequate Yearly Funding, was a play on "adequate yearly progress" required by No Child Left Behind. It called for protecting Kansas' future and our most valuable asset...the Kansas child. Organized by two teachers, Noah and Christie Slay, the crowd included represents schools from Garden City to Lenexa, Atchison to Colby. It demonstrated that Kansans value our schools and do not want the failed state of affairs Representatives Yoder and O'Neal want to give us.

AYF particpant
Prior to the commencement of speakers, students from USD 383 Manhattan-Odgen told the crowd that the school board was going to cut music from the elementary curriculum in order to save money (along with cutting other positions and programs as well). The students were able to articulate why music is important and what will happen to their nationally recognized music program as a result of the proposed cut. Maybe such articulate students is just the reason the conservatives want to cut education again.

Following the general introduction by Noah Slay, a third grade teacher, Sen. Anthony Hensley called the crowd to order with an energy-filled speech. "Investing in public education is the right thing to do," he began. "In our state's budget for FY 2010 we spend on average $37 per day, per student, in our K-12 education system. Contrast that with the fact that on average we spend almost $70 to house, feed, clothe and often education the inmates in the Lansing penitentiary. What question is: Where do you want to spend your money?"

Gov. Parkinson called the situation a "historic battle" and called marchers to contact legislators to raise taxes to protect schools from further cuts. Saying "we can do this with just a 1-cent sales tax," he once again proposed increasing sales tax and tobacco tax to close an expected $467 million shortfall for next fiscal year.

Gov. Parkinson
"Now the economists, the so called economists from the right, will tell you that if we raise the sales tax just one cent, we will tear down our economy," he said. Citing the City of Wichita, Parkinson pointed out that a one-cent sales tax was added to build an arena. When he asks people in Wichita about the tax, no one was able to tell him when it was add or when it went off. "If we can raise taxes one cent to build an arena, surely we can raise taxes one cent to help every school child in this state."

Other speakers included two articulate students from Shawnee Heights, senior Alec Weaver and sophomore Alec Elkison, 2009 Kansas Teacher of the Year Cindy Coachman, Rep. Ann Mah, Rep. Paul Davis, KNEA President Dr. Blake West along with organizers Noah and Christie Slay.

Sen. Tom Holland
Tom Holland stated that his motivation for public service was our schools. "Kansas schools are facing serious problems and no one know this more than our students, parents, teachers and administrators," he said. "We are trying to teach tomorrow's leaders with yesterday's resources. That just won't cut it!"

Holland gave examples of class size doubling and that schools have been closed because of the funding crisis. "We must rededicate ourselves to investing in our teachers and schools so that every Kansas child, our future leaders will have the very best education possible."

Kansans - parents, grandparents, students, teachers, and folks who don't have children in school - across the state must now take up the fight by contact their legislators and demand they do what is right: raise taxes and fund education! We cannot afford to lose an entire generation because some conservatives want to wreck education as they have the political system.

The complete speeches from the rally are available as a podcast here below, on the KONZ website at http://www.konzfm.org/podcasts/, as well as the Community Bridge website (scroll down past the video feeds) and I-Tunes feed.

MP3 File


I am very much in favor of raising taxes to fully fund our schools. I'm also of the opinion that we need to audit our school's programs and expenditures to make sure they are using the resources they have, efficiently. I believe most of them are funding what their public demands.

I will not endorse the idea of using a sales tax to raise additional funds. That tax is the most regressive form of taxation we have. The fact that Wichita tax payers can't tell you when a one cent levy went on or off doesn't mean much. How many Kansans can tell you what their sales tax is or which entities get how much? How many Kansans can tell you what their income tax percentage levy is? Are they even aware that their State Income Tax is calculated off of their Federal Income Tax? The lack of knowledge concerning what sales tax costs them does not mean it is the fair and equitable tax to use.

I understand what they are saying but I dont think the solution is as simple as 1 cent sales tax. That alone will NOT solve all the problems. For one, that extra tax money will just go into the states general fund and they will use it as they please. Remember when the state lottery was supposed to fund schools? Or, let's say all the money raised by the 1 cent sales tax does go to schools. What will prevent them from reducing school funding in other areas?

The truth is Kansas is short of funds and every program from roads to prisons to parks to state pensions to everything else is also being cut back. They will also want a piece of that 1 cent tax and they WILL get a piece. And where will that leave schools then?

I feel the answer lies in long term economic growth. Our universities need to be churning out the engineers and business leaders who want to start the next Microsoft or Google and we need to have the business environment that will make that happen.

I agree that sales tax is regressive, but I do not see any willingness to tax the wealthy or reverse the corporate welfare system the conservatives have created.

In Georgia, where the gambling money is reserved for education, young people can go to college and have their tuition paid if they maintain a 3.0 GPA. I have asked legislators about the where the state lottery money goes and why it is not dedicated to education and all I have got for answers were evasions.

As for churning out engineers, I hope the writer is award that currently, and for most of recent history, going back to the 70s, the US has imported the majority of our engineers from abroad.

Then culturally we do not tolerate the type of creative commons needed to start the next Microsoft or Google as demonstrated by our politicians and educators who claim the earth is only 6,000 years old - or Senator Brownback who votes how God tells him to vote.

The cultural shift needed to provide the fertile ground needed to give birth to such a creative class is beyond the limited mental and cultural abilities of many of the people in positions of power. Just look at NBAF - why do we want to bring a laboratory that has the potential for destroying our economic base to our state?

When the Homeland Security ran Crimson Sky, a one-day executive simulation that examined the threat of a major attack on the US with Foot and Mouth Disease, in September, 2002 the results were devastating requiring a 25-mile long ditch, a quarter of a mile wide and deep to hold all the carcasses of the cattle that would died either because they had to be destroyed or from the disease. According to the simulation, the army ran out of bullets killing cattle, sheep and goats, food riots broke out across the nation, and all of this occurred within a 24 hour - five day period.

Participants included Senator Pat Roberts, the Governor of North Dakota, the Lt Governor of Nebraska, the Secretary of Agriculture and many senior members of the Interagency Deputies Committee including the Deputy FEMA Director and Deputy EPA Administrator. There were 75 participants and 50 observers.

But you don't hear anything about that in the local papers do you? Because the government isn't working for the people but rather entrenched economic interests.

I'm not sure how things are in Manhattan but here in Johnson County there is plenty of fertile ground for creativity and business innovation. Every school tax and bond issue brought up to a vote here has passed which gives Johnson County a public school system that's the envy of the region. Our graduates may have to go away for college but they then return here and people move here because of our public schools and quality of life.

I think we are both on the right concept of economic growth. Can we both agree that when the right technical people, meet up with he right kind of creative people, who then can go to the right kind of business people, and they are not hampered by poor physical infrastructure or overbearing political oversight, then you will see companies created and economic growth.

I'm going to support the 1 cent tax for education but I see it as only a temporary fix. It is not the real solution to the the states budget problems. The motto of our business networking roundtable is "we refuse to participate in a recession" and if we all adopt that attitude we will see things turn around and our schools will be well funded.

I think the sad thing is that we have to raise taxes just to fund education. I support it because we are in the position that it is necessary but I think we need to look at our priorities. Education should be one of the first things funded. A tax increase should never be needed. Education should be fully funded already.

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