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Get A Job, Losers!

By Vickie Stangl
Opinion | October 31, 2011

WICHITA, Kan. - Over 100 citizens from the Wichita metro area and people throughout Kansas met in Chisholm Creek Park to exercise their freedom of speech by protesting KOCH Industries on October 29th, 2011.

This historic rally and march was organized by a new grassroots group called "Kansans United in Voice & Spirit " with the goal of bringing together, "Concerned citizens of Kansas united to support, advocate for and protect valuable state services, programs and policies." Founders Tamara Werth and Cyrstal McComas, want to preserve such communist inspired programs like public education, Medicaid and assisting abused and neglected children. They understand that further cuts by the Kansas State Legislature and Governor Brownback will decimate the lives of Kansans just barely holding on.

The mobilization weekend events were part of a state wide grassroots effort beginning first in Kansas City then followed by a meeting in Lawrence, Kansas. People in attendance listened to speakers discuss how radical changes already in the works could drastically alter the quality of life for vulnerable Kansans and the middle class.

The mobilization effort then transformed into action in Wichita as the organization sponsored a march and rally at Koch Industries, who epitomize corporate influence in the political process. This powerhouse of money and connections was targeted due to its offshoot groups like American's For Prosperity, the Kansas Public Institute and ALEC(American legislative Exchange Council) that have radically altered the political process in America. These shadow groups are writing policies for state legislators to implement new laws (think Voter I.D. laws, stripping labor unions from collective bargaining rights) providing talking points for conservative politicians and making donations to conservative politicians.(Brownback received $20,000 in political donations from Koch.)

There is nothing wrong with Koch Industries making a profit. Corporations however, should not control government by writing laws that will increase their profits while hurting the middle class and making it difficult for Americans to thrive. The Koch brothers have every right to be part of the political discourse but they use the profits from their business to create a kind of underground government of Think Tanks and policy institutes to manipulate the political process and offer up findings that always help their business while harming the environment or preventing government from passing regulations for the public good. If this continues,we can hardly claim to be a democracy but will have to call our government a plutocracy.(Rule by the wealthy)

In Tony Carrk's article, "The Koch Brothers", he noted how the Kochs have donated directly to 62 of 87 freshman GOP congressman in 2010, and to 13 governors who won their elections. These are not representatives of the people, but men and women in the service of Koch Industries. Republicans elected to Congress in 2010 have refused to compromise to help the people and the nation. Their ideology streams from the Koch philosophy that government should only provide for capitalists. Make no mistake, this philosophy underscores everything behind Koch Industries. The Koch anti-tax ideology shatters the long held belief that government was instituted for the welfare of the people.

After the march in Wichita, the local television newscasts posted comments on their website. Comments ranged from calling the protesters "whiners", "losers", to lazy people who should just get a job and leave poor Koch Industries alone. Interestingly, any group which challenges cuts in programs that would hurt quality of life for the poor, are denigrated as moochers. These old smear tactics are just pathetic.

Supporters who assembled for the rally and march in Wichita included people from all walks of life. There were professionals, laborers, as well as students, children and special needs individual. With their homemade signs, those who gathered at Chisholm Park marched nearly 1 mile, and those who gathered in a residential neighborhood marched nearly 2.5 miles to stand together in front of Koch Industries. Like something out of a police state, Koch security guards dressed in pale gray slacks and pale green polo shirts were busy filming the demonstrators and taking pictures as a police helicopter made several passes over the rally. The message from Koch Industries was clear: intimidate and make these people think twice for having the nerve to protest in Koch's own backyard.

Clearly, moderate, sensible politics is dead in Kansas. And remember, things can always get worse. The cuts that are coming will leave Kansas no more than a hollowed out shell of its former self. The only thing that can stop this from happening are the voters rejecting such politics in November of 2012. And it is the people the marchers, the demonstrators who can be a catalyst to wake up the average citizen who is uninformed and not paying attention. If groups like Kansans United can raise awareness of just what is really happening in the state, the people can defeat those who want to turn the state of Kansas into a corporate owned subsidiary of Koch.

Davis Burress, President and lead economist with Ad Astra Institute of Kansas provided the chilling facts about the efforts to cut and rearrange the tax structure in Kansas. While Brownback is still very secretive with his new tax proposals, overall, middle class Kansans would see an increase in their taxes but it would be lower for the wealthiest families in Kansas. The middle class would have lower income taxes but higher property taxes and sales taxes.

The figures become very scary regarding cutting tax revenues. Burress stated that if just 50% of income tax revenues are cut, this would mean the state of Kansas would lose $1.2 billion dollars in revenue! Even if there was a statewide sales tax enacted to make up for this loss, say a 1.8% increase, that would only make up HALF of the amount lost to the tax revenue cuts.

Why is this so devastating to the lives of ALL Kansans? Cuts to public schools have been deep and placed schools back to 1991 funding levels regarding spending per pupil. When adjusted for inflation, schools are currently at the 1982 level. A decrease in income taxes by 50% could be take Kansas schools back an additional 10 years.

Currently Kansas ranks 15 out of 50 states in seniors' graduating from highs school, but we certainly could not maintain that high number if budget cuts continue. Parents already know the effects of these budget cuts on their children; larger classes, less extra-curricular courses and activities-such as foreign languages and theater are gone. Looming before Kansas taxpayers will be the cost of lawsuits for failing to adequately fund education in Kansas.

Who would want to move to the desert regions of western Kansas or anywhere in Kansas, when there will no longer be good public schools or NEA funding of art programs in the state? Kansas will be nothing but a bowl of oil, gas, dust and poverty after the evangelical republicans have brought their New World Order into being. Brownback is playing with fire to develop, direct and operate this secret and interlocking series of laws and programs that will impoverish the people of Kansas.

Kansans can look forward to higher sales tax, higher property taxes, cuts in funding for child abuse/neglect and domestic violence programs, medicaid cuts, closing of healthcare facilities that dispense contraceptives, greatly restricting access to abortions by impossible regulations, and high unemployment across the state, especially in education when Brownback's new restructuring of the tax system is put in place.

And, what could possibly be the motive to make such drastic cuts in public education? There are two reasons. One is ideological and the other is practical. First, conservatives view public education as a secular/liberal propaganda hothouse and would be delighted to shut down the very institution that attempts to level the playing field for all classes. The only schools conservatives want to thrive are religious and private. In the colonial era, only the most wealthy or connected were educated in America. Many conservatives today believe only the most worthy should be educated and not the masses. Besides, public schools allow too many radical ideas to be discussed. Without government interference, private schools could indoctrinate students with bogus history such as the idea that America was founded as a Christian government and that capitalism sits at the right hand of God. The bonus in doing away with public schools is that conservatives wouldn't have to pay to educate the children of the poor.

Second, imagine how quickly life would change for millions of Americans. Climbing the economic and social ladder would be impossible. In short, there would be massive numbers of poor worker bees all too grateful to have a job from their large benevolent employers who by this point would have destroyed any unions or trivial benefits like healthcare to become even wealthier.

Many years ago I thought the talk about the republicans wanting to end the use of all contraceptives as hyperbole. Today, if you think it is hyperbole that public schools could be so gutted that they become unsustainable-think again.

To stand up to the radical conservative agenda that is destroying good government in Kansas, go to www.kansansunited.org and be a part of this important grassroots effort.


Thanks for your thorough analysis of this miserable situation, Vickie. Dave Trabert of the Kansas Policy Institute makes no bones about his, and the Koch's, desire to close public schools and make all schools charters or private. He made the statement when he was interviewed on KMUW last week that he wanted to see public schools improve without any supporting evidence that our public schools are already doing an excellent job of educating students against the most impossible odds. Here in USD 259, more than half the students qualify for reduced or free lunch. If the Koch clones have their way, these kids would just go hungry.

I don't march or take to the streets anymore for a variety of reasons, one being that after all these years I'm burnt out. I'm glad people were there, though, and I can lend my support in other ways.

Everybody in the middle and lower classes should be angry. Those people who support the Koch agenda have been brainwashed.

Thank you Diane! We all do what we can do and believe me, I was not thrilled to have to be taking it to the streets again to draw attention to this situation. I almost resent it because government should not be this difficult. We should all have equal access to our representatives and not have to fight to preserve the very system those officials are suppose to defend and uphold to begin with, and yet we all know the system is so corrupted by money the poor continue to just lose out again and again.

Thanks Vickie for your clear, concise, insightful words. What is going on in Kansas (and in the nation)is like living in a bad, futuristic novel. It is hard to fathom the depth of the "take over" of the middle and lower classes, but it is happening. It is powerful and swift. The selfishness and greed is like an insidious disease that has effected the minds and hearts of many.

To be filmed by the police-like Koch security men during the peaceful march Oct. 29 was chilling, as was the excessive police force, barricades and hovering helicopter.

To be silent about all these horrific proposed changes is not an option. No more public education?!! I might really have to move to Australia as in the children's book, "I'm Having a Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Day"..."I'm moving to Australia". If only that was a solution.

Thanks for your voice, wisdom and determination, Vickie. I'm with you.

"These old smear tactics are just pathetic."

"epitomize corporate influence, powerhouse of money and connections, radically altered the political process, shadow groups, create a kind of underground government, manipulate the political process, anti-tax ideology."


"Currently Kansas ranks 15 out of 50 states in seniors' graduating from highs school, but we certainly could not maintain that high number if budget cuts continue."

Are you sure? Missouri ranks higher than KS, and they spend less per pupil (I'm looking at 2008 data). And several states spend more per pupil but have significantly worse graduation rates. Money does not equal a good education. And saying we have to spend X amount of money because we've always spend at least X amount of money is not a justification for funding.

I'm always glad to see people working to improve government. Even if I disagree with some of your comments the important thing is to be an involved citizen and hold the elected representative accountable.

BTW, I think the OWS type demonstrations are having effect beause the Obama administration has quit meeting with CEO's and many companies have quit the big layoffs.

schlyer: I'm not sure how Missouri allocates their dollars to the public schools. As a state, Missouri probably has more funds overall due to their diversity of industries, larger population and othe factors to offset their state budget. Again, I was using the numbers by a study done from a very reputable group. The argument that always comes up is that spending less dollars on education doesn't necessarly mean a worse educational system. Quality over quanity. I understand that argument.However, this is not about running a tighter ship with better results, the cuts have had a very negative effect on students. Teachers are asked to carry a heavier load of students which means more grading and paper work, as well as meeting the many different needs of the students inside and outside the classroom, students have less options in coursework(French IV or Chinese, good luck finding those offerings in a regular public school) and of course, band,theater and sports have most certainly been impacted by cuts. Technology alone is far more expensive to provide than it was in the 70s or 80s in public schools. Think of all the computers, programming and upgrades that are necessary today that didn't exist 20 years ago and we are asking schools to do more on less and still maintain high quality, high morale and convincing teachers to work with less resources, more students, and lower pay or benefits.I dont' see how this scenario can be sustained or take more strain to a system already on overload.

Thank you Brad. I totally agree.

Dorothy, I appreicate your kind words and willingness to read the entire article. It was a bit long. I hate to do that to readers but this is a subject with many, many different points to cover. These are indeed "Strange Times", to quote the Moody Blues.

As a retired teacher, I can attest to the fact that amount of money put into a school system makes a big difference in how well kids learn. I started my teaching career in a one-room country school. Since that time 40 years ago, the cost of everything has gone up. Fuel, paper goods, books, pencils, pens, equipment for science labs, desks and other classroom furniture, building maintenance--well, you get the idea. In addition, students need to become proficient in computer use if they're going to make it in today's job market. And technology is expensive.

As to the political aspects of public education, if students get a broad-based education, they will likely end up with a broad worldview.

Teachers still earn less money than most other professionals. Those of us who go into teaching do it knowing we won't get rich. We do it because we love it. However, we don't love having to pay for supplies for our classrooms. One of my friends, a middle school science teacher, has to buy supplies so her students can do the experiments they need to do to get the hands-on experience that makes studying science interesting and relevant.

Dealing with more students in a classroom leads to more teacher fatique and less concentration on quality. It's not that we don't try, but a person can't stay up until 1 or 2 p.m. every night grading papers and still function well the next day. Granted, English teachers often have more grading than those in other fields, but we all have grading and class prep as part of our work.

Once again, thanks Vickie. And thanks to Brad for his comments.

"I can attest to the fact that amount of money put into a school system makes a big difference in how well kids learn."

That may have been your experience, but its not a 'fact'. Other states have higher achievement levels and spend less per pupil than we do in KS. And spending money on the 'school system' doesn't help at all. Targeted spending on specific things - maybe that will help, but to just spend more?

schlyer, where do you rank in the economic sector of society? If you are near the median or average, would a 20% reduction in your income allow you to provide all the basic needs of your family? Would it be reasonable to expect you to be able to go back to your income 15 or 20 years ago and still be able to meet todays medical, food, and shelter expenses?

The closer you are to the bottom economically the more critical the present recession becomes.

Schlyer--It's ALL targeted spending. Do you believe school districts take taxpayer money and throw it around or have big parties? I've been on several teacher negotiations teams and one thing we did as a matter of course was take a look at the school budget. In most cases, the money was being budgeted wisely. Some people may think that a huge district like USD 259 in Wichita has too many administrators. I don't know since I've never taught in USD 259, but I do know there's a lot of territory for administrators to cover in such a district.

A long time ago, one of my young friends told me he wanted to teach for awhile before he got a real job. I laughed and told him he would never work as hard as he did as a teacher, except maybe doing manual labor. I would say to you before you attack public schools for needing money to operate, you should become part of the system. After you pay for supplies for your classroom and your students and after you stay up until 2 a.m. grading or preparing for classes, then I'll give some credence to your arguments.

On public schools.

I'm sorry but right now I'm having a big problem with my kids public school and I wont defend them. So many times I wish I could have a voucher where I could take my kid to any other school I wanted to. But no, with the government schools you take it or leave it.

Last night I was up for 3 hours with my 4th grader trying to teach him geography and spelling which his teachers dont do - they dump that on us parents. Last year I got so sick of being the one having to teach my son math and spelling I finally asked the teacher what the heck she was being paid for? His teacher was like always gone because "her baby was sick" and he always semed to have subs. this year I'm going to back off. If he doesnt get straight A's in a subject he doesnt understand, I dont care. Why doesnt the dang teacher work with these kids?

Finally years ago I used to teach for the Kansas City Missouri school district. As some of you know, the KCMO district is one of the most disfunctional around. Well years ago the state dumped a billion dollars into that district and at the end, the schools were even worse off than before. I'm always amaazed how they can afford new football stadiums but not classroom supplies.

I'm really fascinated about your experience teaching in a one room school. You know, you teachers who once taught in those are a dying breed so I hope you can share your experience someday. Last year up in South Dakota where my grandparents live they closed down their last one room school (they were down to 8 kids). I wonder if any are still around in Kansas?

Frankly I LOVE the one room schoolhouse model of teaching. You can have a 10 year old doing 3rd grade math, 6th grade science, 5th grade reading. All the kids young and old can learn from each other.

So please, if you have a chance write down what you can about the experience.

"If you are near the median or average, would a 20% reduction in your income allow you to provide all the basic needs of your family?"

The answer here is unknowable. Is the current median/average level of spending only covering the basics - or was everyone doing so well that even the median folks had a cushy lifestyle? Have my definition of whats considered 'basic' changed in the past 20 years?

This is why basing budgets on existing spending levels is flawed - its an interesting comparison, but not instructive of what the outcome of a cut or increase in spending will be. Because existing funding levels include alot of things that aren't basic, or required, or helpful to the goal of increasing student achievement. Alternatively, existing levels of funding might be woefully inadequate.

Brad--I'm pretty busy right now--this is what being retired is all about--but I'll write a blog about my one-room school teaching experience one of these days. What is fascinating to me is that my career went from teaching in a one-room school to teaching online. I would have never imagined such a thing when I first walked into that country schoolhouse.

I hate it that your fourth grader is having such a difficult time. I had to help my kids with their homework too, but not because the teachers weren't doing their jobs. I laugh when I think about the time I tried to help my oldest, who was then in middle school, with his English assignment. I was an English major, but when I looked at his assignment I had no idea what he was supposed to do. I think we finally figured it out together, but it was pretty frustrating. And forget about math.

There aren't enough hours in the day for teachers to teach everything the kids needed to learn. Also, I know there are ineffective teachers. It's particularly bad if a teacher can't be there and a sub has to take over.

I know very little about the KC school district except that I think it was taken over by some other governmental agency. My grandkids are in the Shawnee Mission school district, so I think their experience is good.

More later.

Does anyone know if there are any 1 room schools left in Kansas?

There are no public one room schools in Kansas.

Consolidation efforts in the '40s and '50s eliminated most of them. Then Unification in the late '60s closed the remaining ones.

One room schools were great if you had an excellant teacher. But very few teachers are capable of handling such a wide range of ages.

I didn't attend a one room school, but we far from that model. We had three classes in our room. The year I was a senior in H. S. we had 15 total students in the 4 grades. Only 2 of us in my senior class. The subjects offered were based on what the teachers thought they could teach. Some of them couldn't teach anything.

I had only 3 teachers for my first 8 years. One of them was good, the other two were nominal. For myy 4 years of H.S. I had 5 different academic teachers. One was very good, one was fairly adequate, the others were just there. I had older siblings and parents that pushed me and the fact that I loved to read helped me get a respectable education. The war made it hard for small schools to get teachers

Money will not guarantee good schools and teachers, but the lack of adequate funding will limit opportunity.

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