Friday, May 19, 2006
Communists Triumph in Topeka
Specifics on how Kansas school finance resembles Soviet style communism:
1.) Both appear to take from the rich and give to the poor.
2.) Both rely on highly centralized command bureaucracies.
3.) Both destroy incentives for efficiently operated enterprises.
4.) Both display the exercise of raw power.
5.) Both rely on one-party rule.
6.) Both create egregious injustices.
7.) Both violate the state constitution.
8.) Both are intellectually exhausted and morally bankrupt.
Point One: Johnson county, "the rich" will provide 30% of the funds for the increase in school financing just passed by the legislature. This money will be distributed to the rest of the state, "the poor." JoCo gets 8% back. That's what we call an old-fashioned re-distribution of wealth, also known as Socialism or Communism.
Point Two: School districts cannot make any decisions, such as staffing, etc, until the state tells them how much money they will have. The school finance bill, passed this month, gives the districts only a few weeks to plan a budget and organize staffing for the start of the next school year. The finance bill passed in mid-May; school starts in mid-August. The critical decisions, such as how many teachers are needed, are actually decided indirectly by the legislature, who very directly determines the money available for all 300 local districts, and thus the staffing, etc.
Point Three: The Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD), arguably the most efficiently run district in the state, has been heavily penalized by the state legislature. The second largest district in the state, with enrollment over 28,000, it will receive $236.00 per pupil under the newly approved finance plan. The district with 12.5 students gets over $900 per pupil. The formula clearly gives a heavy subsidy to tiny, inefficient school districts and penalizes SMSD for having had the foresight to unify and to operate efficiently. For a great district-by-district summary, go here.
Point Six: The DeSoto school district furnishes a new laptop computer for every child; SMSD continues to lay off school nurses and cut arts programs to one-day per week.
Point Seven: The Kansas Supreme Court already ruled the statewide distribution of school finance funds as unconstitutional, for two reasons: the state fails to provide sufficient funding to meet the constitutional requirement to provide for an adequate education and the funds are distributed based on politics rather than costs. It would appear that both defects remain in the newly passed financing plan. My personal feeling: the state Supreme Court will appoint a special master to correct these problems. Study by Kansas Policy institute here.
Point Eight: In modern times, the people demonstrate their contentment by ignoring politics and civic duty. Honest, earnest individuals with strange beliefs and powerful motivations run for local office. Characters you would not invite to your home become your elected representatives. Fellows we would not ordinarily label "the best and the brightest" end up deciding our children should receive a 1950's education in the 21st Century. Females who claim they believe "A woman's place is in the home," go to the capitol and pass laws. Guys who honestly think the whole of creation is at most eight thousand years old decide on science education standards.
The state chose to slash taxes when economic times were good. Now only the most courageous of legislatures would consider raising taxes and providing adequate schools to the children of Kansas. It would take a legislature of statesmen, of people not afraid to take a clear stand and not afraid to lose an election for the sake of doing the right thing. It would take a legislature unwilling to burden the state Supreme Court with shirked duties.
Where do we get a legislature like that?
The current financing plan heavily favors small districts and poor districts; SMSD remains in the bottom 10 districts out of 300 in per-pupil spending. The spread between the top per-pupil spenders and the bottom actually gets worse under the new plan. The rewards of staying tiny and wasteful are growing, and Johnson County is paying for it. It is the politically distorted inequality that upsets me.
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