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Manhattan, KS. Many have struggled during the past 6 years of the Brownback administration to find their voice as the radical conservatives in the Kansas Legislature set about to dismantle the State of Kansas we loved. Finally, in the 2016 election cycle, Kansans began taking back the state from the ALEC minions who had been elected under Brownback's watchful eye. But there is still much work to be done to reverse the unjust tax system and give back the financial support our public schools and universities need to educate our future generations. The Kansas People's Agenda hopes to give voice to those who are opposed to the direction the State of Kansas has taken under Brownback.

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Guarding the Kansas Henhouse


Life on my grandfather's farm in some ways epitomized the rural farm life I still envision as the ideal Kansas life. Neighbors helped each other, there was plenty of fresh air and beautiful country. Everywhere there was (with small exceptions) an atmosphere of trust.

If there were problems, they could usually be handled 'in-neighborhood.' Until they couldn't. For example, one neighbor raised a large number of chickens. Although he knew wild critters ran the creeks nearby, he was confident his hen house and collie dog were sufficient for protection. Until they weren't.

One day the farmer awoke, dressed, and walked out to feed his chickens. Only half were left. Both farmer and chickens were traumatized. The slaughter was widespread and ugly. Few spots were left unbloodied. Feathers still drifted, as if still frantically attempting escape, in the early morning breeze. The hens never knew what hit them.

Years later, we Kansans awoke to a much larger, more devastating, raid. The Kansas Teagislature, at 4 a.m. on a Sunday morning, raided the public treasury of up to 10 million dollars annually, handing that $10-million gift to corporations (they deduct 70%) to siphon off from public schools to private schools, for "scholarships." This allows them to teach their choice of curriculum to their choice of students, at your expense.

Not only that, they simultaneously slaughtered teacher's due process rights, courtesy of our own non-Senator, Republican Tom Arpke. That due process chicken house had been safe for 60 years--yet both blows to public education were done in one dastardly late-night raid.

With no opportunity for debate, the amendments to the Education Funding bill can only be characterized as a surprise attack.

The process echoed Sam Brownback's earlier perversion of the legislative process. The one which shot a cannonball through the general welfare. The "experiment" making Kansas perhaps the leading example of irresponsible, regressive, unfair tax policy. The tax giveaway handing tank car loads of state money over to--not 1,900, not 19,100--but 191,000--that's One-Hundred-Ninety-One-THOUSAND relatively well-off partnerships and limited liability corporations.

Making it worse, they didn't ASK for it. Many or most would just as soon have that tax money kept to help others in the state. But the Brownback/ Americans for Prosperity/ American Legislative Exchange Council juggernaut of lies-in-advertising seems to have blinded enough Kansans to this reality: The chickens--no, in this case a huge nest of foxes--have come home to roost in their hen house.

According to the Kansas City Star, "Urged on by conservative special interests such as Americans for Prosperity, Republican leaders pressed hard to eliminate due process rights for teachers." The AFP agenda often mirrors that of ALEC, and both are heavily funded by the right-wing big-bucks boys. The Nation previously reported that "untold sums of cash" have been poured into ALEC by the Koch brothers.

But Kansans are waking up. Hopefully in time to clean up the bloodletting and restore the hen house population.

We Kansans remember Sam Brownback's calling in a large group of lobbyists to demand they donate to his list of replacement candidates. Brownback's chosen frozen replaced legislators who actively asked questions, who did not knuckle under to the Brownback/AFP/ALEC agenda, who served the people, not Sam's special-interest underwriters. Thus did hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars in false advertising subvert the will of the people. The latest example: A television ad showing the Guv cavorting with kindergartners while his cohorts undercut public education. Kansans should not buy it.

We Kansans remember the raids on education and social services, the huge budget hole in the ship of state, sinking it under waves of debt, the general lack of compassion, concern--or sanity--in the making of public policy.

We Kansans now recognize similar local 'anti-tax' candidates who have no clue about sound public policy, who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We Kansans take little comfort in the discovery that ALEC has now sired a little (big) brother, the "American City County Exchange (ACCE) that will target policymakers from "villages, towns, cities and counties." Thus could some already clueless local lawmakers become even more susceptible to deception.

But we Kansans still have the vote. As Richard Crowson, Wichita media commentator, recently noted, "If you're just blaming cowardly, anti-education legislators, you are wrong. Our Legislature was not beamed to earth from another planet. They were elected." And they can be un-elected.

There's more than one way to guard a henhouse.

Roots of the n-word

While N-word dialogue has slackened following Saline County Commissioner Gile's use of it recently, the word still has great power. So, let's look inward at the N-word.

To reach a much deeper path to understanding, simply go to Ad Astra books, order Wendell Berry's book "The Hidden Wound," and read it. As Berry himself notes, it will be work. But you will be far better for it. In the interim, I offer my poor, feeble glimpse (inspired by Mr. Berry) into our "hidden wound."

Racism is not a racial problem. It is a cultural problem. An economic problem. An environmental problem. And most of all, a human problem.

The root of our "racism" is not racism. Rather, it is our desire to be superior to our condition. We whites brought Africans here for one reason: to exploit and dominate this New Earth. We discovered early on that living upon this sacred ground requires work. Hard work. Back-breaking work, at times.

Early on, we created a society which values 'beautiful people' who need not work. Picture old-time Plantation owners and Southern Belles. Fast forward to today. Whether buying vacation timeshares in order to make ourselves into leisure kings and queens once a year, or buying homes and cars we clearly cannot afford--or simply dreaming of it--we conjure a life vision devoid of drudgery. This remains the American Dream.

The back-side Janus-face of our forward-looking, hoped-for prosperity, however, is cast in a shadow of darkness. In our pride, we assigned hard work (deemed demeaning) to black Africans. We could only bring them here against their will, utilizing extreme force, by convincing ourselves they were inferior. By circular logic, they were inferior because they did the work--and they did the work because they were inferior. Thus did we become prisoners of our self-created fiction.

Separated from hard work and clear insight, we lost our connection to the land itself--a connection sustained by slaves we regarded as chattel. (Biblically, women were referred to as chattel. That status surfaces innumerably in tragedies such as the Bangladesh clothing factory collapse, death toll now nearing one thousand, where our "cheap, chic" clothes from Wal-mart and the Gap are made.)

Our lost earth-connections have caused us to create the term "nigger." A nigger was someone of inferior status, yet knowledgeable in the ways of the earthy world. Nigger street sense, however, escaped the effete sensibilities of masters in ivory towers. And it still creates a dynamic bond with fellow niggers, who get what the white mastuh has no clue about.

Thus a book well-read by the rebellious scholars of my generation was "The Student As Nigger." In an academic world controlled by administrative masters of various stripes, the metaphor was contagious and powerful. As a master text of 60's student movements, it challenged us to escape--or embrace--our niggerhood. We learned a lot about the world's realities in the process.

It approaches blasphemy to imply that those of us in the student movement encountered anything like the oppression visited upon our black brothers and sisters. But our awareness of nigger-ism, a sense of brotherhood with those "under the yoke," remains vital to this day. As the priorities of the powerful take ever-greater precedence over everyday citizens, we are now paying, and have perhaps always paid the price.

As blindingly stupid as it was for whites to enslave the black man, it took equal stupidity to fail the lessons of the indigenous about living in, on, and with this land. Our very structures, aimed at freedom, instead consigned us to our own prison. Elevating an assortment of minorities into a racially equitable distribution of college degrees and professional salaries has not elevated our understanding of the problem.

We could have kept our connection to the very ground we walk on.

But we did not.

Slavery came too easy, and we have been trying to shed its yoke ever since. If we completely accepted the black race's humanity, we would not accommodate an alien people--we would receive into ourselves a poignantly missing half of our own experience, vital and finally indispensable. We have so far denied that, at great cost to ourselves and everyone.

We are not able to 'set free' our red and black sisters and brothers, let alone any other fellow-creatures of whatever size, shape, or hue. Until we recognize in them their distinctive full strength and grace, we will not set anyone free--least of all ourselves.

Yes, the n-word holds power over us--but only because we have let it.

Forked tongues stab public workers

Any hard-working, self-respecting wage earner knows payroll deduction has long been a fact of life. It's used for tax withholding, charitable giving like the United Way, health insurance premiums, cafeteria plans for tax deductions--and professional association (union) dues.

Now worker's unions are in the cross-hairs of Kansas' Koch/Brownback Buddies, and KKBB's first legislative target is payroll deduction. Teachers, firemen, police, etc. can join and pay union dues without it--but in the real, practical world, collecting dues to protect worker rights is made far more difficult.

The KKBB's know that, passing House Bill 2303 by a slim (68-56) margin. The bill bars using payroll-deducted public-employee money for any political purpose. Thus public workers will be outgunned in any kind of election--school bond, school board, legislative or gubernatorial. Corporations and big-money enterprises, however, remain free to influence the public unimpeded. We public employees--teachers, firemen, policemen--are told by the state what we can and can't do with our payroll-deducted money.

AND it will be 'enacted' immediately upon the Gov's signature, just in time to squash workers' voices in Slick Sam's upcoming assaults on responsible government.

So, how could any legislator defend a yes vote on 2023? They can't. But the language they use to 'defend the indefensible' as George Orwell put it is, well, Orwellian.

Orwell's books, 1984 and Politics and the English Language, and later, Edward S. Herman, political economist and media analyst, called it Doublespeak. Herman's book, Beyond Hypocrisy, defines Doublespeak as "the ability to lie, knowingly or unconsciously, and get away with it; and to choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don't fit [one's] agenda or program."

Here's the boiler-plate language ("clearing up some rhetoric") from 69th District's new J.R. Claeys: HB2303 "removes the State of Kansas from the responsibility of bookkeeping for public sector union political action committees (PACS)." Really?

In other words, our school districts, who have for years simply deducted dues from employees' pay like all other myriad deductions, simply won't do it--or if they do, the law will not allow workers to use any of said funds to lobby to protect their employment rights.

My school district is not, with all due respect, "the State of Kansas." It is my partner in education. And to see this as some burden on the state is just plain malarkey.

Also, says Claeys, the bill "allows union members to . . . contribute to a public sector PAC from the privacy of their home without outside pressure."

What universe does Claeys inhabit? It is hard enough, in a "right to work" state, to get teachers to join their local association. Kansas' law already ensures that public workers are not legally required to join the group negotiating their hours, working conditions, or compensation. The built-in temptation to "free-ride" ( which I myself once briefly indulged), makes it easy to forget that, without your association's solidarity, you do what The Man (or Woman) says.

In addition, some teachers' reluctance to join is heightened by already low salaries. (A goal of this administration?)

Claeys' implication of unbearable union pressure and a White Knight KS Legislature riding in to save the poor, downtrodden worker goes beyond implausible to ludicrous.

Another bill rumored ready for flash-passing, HB2085, would essentially dismantle professional negotiations, gutting the right of school and public employees to have a say in their wages, hours, and working conditions.

These bills do not spring fresh from legislators' foreheads. They're not from J.R., but from ALEC.

ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council, backed by huge companies like State Farm, sends hundreds of pre-packaged, anti-worker, anti-citizen bills to all states. Some are passed. Some are not. Cumulatively, however, they bypass Congress and become de facto national legislation. For further information, google "The United States of ALEC."

Other area "representatives" also attacked workers through HB2023 and should hear from you. They are John Barker of Abilene, Susan Concannon of Beloit, Steven Johnson of Assaria, Don Schroeder of Hesston, Sharon Schwartz of Washington, and Troy Waymaster of Luray. There are others throughout the state.

Local Reps. Diercks, Christmann, Moxley and Schultz deserve kudos for voting against the bill.

The Senate's companion bill SB31 has not yet been voted on. Call regional Senators Elaine Bowers of Concordia, Jay Emler of McPherson, Tom Arpke of Salina, Tom Hawk of Manhattan, Mitch Holmes of St. John, Ralph Ostmeyer of Grinnell--or any other Senators--to tell them this travesty of a bill should be rejected. Thanks!

MANHATTAN, Kan. - On July 23, 2012, over 50 people attended the Kansas Citizens for Science's candidate forum for the Kansas State Board of Education, District 6, at the Manhattan Public Library.

Candidates participating in the forum included: Usha Reddi and Carol Viar, Democratic candidates, and Deena Horst, Republican candidate. Harry McDonald, President of the Kansas Citizens for Science Board of Directors, served as moderator for the forum. McDonald solicited questions from the audience and after general introductory statements, began addressing the questions to the candidates.

The audience had a broad variety of questions: school finance, science standards, virtual schools, comprehensive health education, vouchers, and more.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - I first met Usha Reddi some 13 years ago, when I was a PhD graduate student at K-State's College of Education and she was working on her ESL endorsement as she entered the job market after being a stay-at-home mother.

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Reddi has lived in Kansas for over 20 years. She arrived here when her former husband came to teach and conduct research at K-State. She is the mother of three children, all of whom went to Kansas public schools. Two are now pursuing medical degrees at the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-Kansas City while her eldest is finishing his graduate degree in social work at Columbia University. It was during her children's education here in Manhattan that she became a school volunteer and discovered her love for working with children.

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"Finally, since we live in a twenty-first century economy that increasingly demands a college education, efforts at improvement can't stop at high school's end. Students must have access to a wide variety of options that will give them the skills they need for successful careers. We must stop fueling skyrocketing tuition prices that put higher education out of reach for some and leave others with crushing debt."[1] - Gov. Mitt Romney

YOCEMENTO, Kan. - Let's grant that tuition is "skyrocketing." What could Gov. Romney be advocating as a way of putting higher education in reach without crushing debt?

Broadly speaking, there are two strategies for making higher education accessible.

koch-industries.jpgWICHITA, Kan. - The Koch brothers. Wichita's gift to the right-wing 1%. Recently, just before the Feb. 18th Occupy Koch-Town demonstration, Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl did a long, front-page piece on the Kochs and the death threats they had received. These death threats, according to Charles Koch, came from left-wingers in response to their support of Scott Walker's attack on public employee unions and the Kochs' alleged ties to the Keystone Pipeline. Charles Koch had his say in the article, denying any monetary interest in Keystone, and said his support of Walker and other right-wing politicians was minimal.

Wenzl, a reporter who is known for writing in-depth human interest pieces, quoted Koch and Koch employees at length, He included only a few rebuttal comments from the Occupy Koch-Town demonstration leaders. Even though I'm not involved in either of the groups that organized the demonstration, the Sierra Club and Occupy Wichita, I know many of those people and I know their actions are open to the public. Their opposition to right-wing policies may be noisy, but it does not include violence or take the form of death threats. When I saw the picture in the local section of the Eagle, Tom James, a Wichita poet and musician, was pictured playing his guitar and leading the group in a song. It looked more like the peaceful anti-war marches that I'd participated in the '60s than a threatening demonstration.

The One-Room Country School Experience

WICHITA, Kan. - In the discussions relating to education on this blog, the topic of one-room country schools has come up a few times. One faithful blog reader and poster asked if I would write about my experience teaching in a one-room country school. I will be happy to do so as long as people realize that my experience may not have been typical for a variety or reasons, the major reason being my incompetency as a teacher at that point in my life.

My then husband, a librarian, took the job as the Audrain County librarian in the summer of 1965. The library was located in Decatur, Michigan, a town of 1,800 located thirty-five miles southwest of Kalamazoo. Decatur was the ideal place to live and raise children. Lake of the Woods, a small lake, was within walking distance of our house. We were on the edge of town and mornings we woke to the sound of cows mooing and the good country smells that come with rural living.

TOPEKA, Kan. - In response to yesterday's posting on the efforts by the telecom industry in Kansas to undo the Kan-ed program, I received the following statement from Bradley S. Williams, M.S., CIO & Executive Director of Kan-ed. It outlines well the programs and services provided by Kan-ed to the people of Kansas:

I am reaching out to you directly today because Cox Communications (Wichita), who is a Kan-ed Authorized Provider, has elected to lobby against Kan-ed members and their funding. Cox Communications has asked House Speaker Mike O'Neal (R-Hutchinson) to introduce House Bill 2390 to eliminate Kan-ed effective July 1, 2011. The Speaker of the House indicated yesterday he is supportive of the bill and we also know that Representative Joe McLeland (R-Wichita), is also pushing to dismantle Kan-ed as he has done every year since Kan-ed inception.

If Cox and the Speaker are successful with HB 2390, then all Kan-ed connections and services will go away. That includes all network and video connections, Renovo Video scheduler, licenses, and servers, MCU, Kan-edLiveTutor.com (homework Kansas), Empowered Desktop and LS test builder, EMResource (hospitals ER database) and E-rate support just to name a few... all gone.

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