Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Reign of Idiots

Kansas, conservative paradise:
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal,  the Kansas Board of Education decided in July to allow six school systems — including two of the largest in the state — to hire unlicensed teachers to ease the shortage. (Let the irony sink in for a minute.)  Specifically, the newspaper reported:
The measure will waive the state’s licensure regulations for a group of districts called the Coalition of Innovative Districts, a program that the Legislature established in 2013 based on model legislation from the American Legislative Exchange Council.
(Yes, ALEC, an organization that writes “model legislation” on a variety of topics that conservative legislators use in states  to make new laws that promote privatization, strikes again.  Under this legislation, districts can ignore most laws and regulations — including union contracts — that other public schools in a state must follow.)
Why would a state do that?  Because Fox News ideology (or idiotology) rules there:
According to new data released by the Kansas Department of Education, at least 3,720 teachers left their jobs either by going to other states to teach, retiring or leaving the profession altogether, the Associated Press reported. That, the AP said, was substantially higher than in previous years.  KCUR reported in this story by Sam Zeff that Kansas is becoming such a hard place for teachers that many are crossing into Missouri to find jobs. The story says in part:
A billboard along the Kansas Turnpike eight miles east of Lawrence reads: Independence Missouri School District. Hiring teachers for 2015-2016…. In 2011, before huge tax cuts were enacted, only 85 applications for Missouri teaching licenses were filed with a Kansas address. In the next three years, as school budgets were slashed, those applications doubled. During that same period, applications for Missouri teaching licenses from Arkansas and Iowa remained steady.
How did all of this happen?
A 2014 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in part:
Tax cuts enacted in Kansas in 2012 were among the largest ever enacted by any state, and have since been held up by tax-cut proponents in other states as a model worth replicating.  In truth, Kansas is a cautionary tale, not a model.  As other states recover from the recent recession and turn toward the future, Kansas’ huge tax cuts have left that state’s schools and other public services stuck in the recession, and declining further — a serious threat to the state’s long-term economic vitality. Meanwhile, promises of immediate economic improvement have utterly failed to materialize….
*The large revenue losses extended and deepened the recession’s damage to schools and other state services.  Most states are restoring funding for schools after years of significant cuts, but in Kansas the cuts continue.  Governor Sam Brownback recently proposed another reduction in per-pupil general school aid for next year, which would leave funding 17 percent below pre-recession levels.  Funding for other services — colleges and universities, libraries, and local health departments, among others — also is way down, and declining.
But don't worry.  Tax cuts can't fail, they can only be failed.  Just ask any politician who mentions Ronald Reagan's name.  Any person with half a brain could see this failure coming on after State Executive Moron Sam Brownback was elected. Kansas faces a number of challenges, including slow population growth, an aging population, dying rural areas, job losses in the aviation sector, lower groundwater levels and climate change bringing drier weather.  Throw political saboteurs into the mix and you've got the makings of a disaster.  Wherever I look, I see rural folks voting for the gutting of their own communities.  It really makes me angry and sad, but I hope that examples like this will be enough to convince them to change their approach to politics. But hope isn't much to hang your hat on.

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