Monday, May 16, 2016

Moral Economy Summit in KC

Our friends in Kansas City, Communities Creating Opportunities ( are hosting a Moral Economy Summit on May 18 and 19, 2016. You can go to the following website for information.

CCO reports that Kansas and Missouri have two of the lowest economic growth rates in the nation. According to "The Business Insider" Kansas ranks the 11th worst regarding unemployment rates, housing, prices, average weekly wages, and more.

Communities Creating Opportunities, a faith-based organization with over 25 years of experience in Kansas City, is hosting the Moral Economy Summit to discuss how communities can access full employment, fair credit, early childhood education, and increased health and life expectancy. Eric Liu, founder of Citizen University, and Sophia Bracey Harris, co-founder of the Federation of Community-Controlled Centers of Alabama, are the keynote speakers.

Healthy families are the true measure of a healthy economy and a vibrant community. We celebrate CCO for hosting this important summit and look forward to deepening our partnership with them.

One of the front-line issues for a moral economy in Wichita soon will be decided by the Board of Education for USD 259. Members of the  BOE are to be congratulated for the courageous stand they have taken thus far to protect jobs as they wrestle with the budget crisis created by the Kansas legislature and the governor. We are asking them to continue to stand strong for teachers, custodians, librarians and others who are on the front-line of education. Educators, board members, parents, and all those who are committed to protecting and advancing high quality public education in our community deserve our thanks and our support.

David Hansen

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

In defense of public education

Public schools across the country are facing tough times. Budgets are tight, enrollments are increasing, student populations are diversifying, and pressure to privatize services and reduce staff is unrelenting. The situation in USD 259 is not unique.

Let me say upfront that there are times when privatization is in order. But there are also times when privatization is little more than a form of modern day piracy. This type of privatization transfer assets to the wealthy, and saddles the public and individuals who are least able to shoulder the burden with the costs. Privatizing custodian jobs in USD 259 and other efforts to protect certain jobs and benefits while asking others to sacrifice is morally offensive to me. It is protecting the privileges and power of some at the expense of others.

Privatization puts the burden of responsibility in the wrong place. The problem is not that custodians, teachers, librarians, nurses, aides and others are making too much money. The budget crisis was created by the state legislature and the governor when they decided to eliminate income taxes for the wealthiest 330,000 people in Kansas.

It is worth noting in the context of public education that the word public comes for the Latin poplicus, meaning "pertaining to the people." The word private comes the the Latin privare, from which we get the word "deprived." The Greek word for a strictly private person is idotes, from which we get the word "idiot," meaning a person who does something stupid--like robbing the public purse for private gain.

Although assurances are given that privatization will save millions of dollars, this assurance is not guaranteed. I would be surprised if privatization contracts contain clawback provisions that would reimburse school districts if the promised savings were not realized. I invite you to go online and read about school districts that have privatized custodial services, sold custodial supplies and equipment, and created an employment environment that invites high turnover for jobs that pay low wages and have few benefits. More than one school district reports that they had to spend millions of unbudgeted dollars for custodial services after they voted to privatize these same services to save money. The Chicago public schools is a well-documented study in the failure of privatization.
Schools are public places where people learn self-respect, gain new skills, and learn the values of cooperation and civic virtue. They are meeting places that offer the opportunity for creative inter-generational interaction crossing lines of race, class, and religion. Without this kind of public space the fabric of society soon becomes frayed, and public trust in our institutions begins to unravel.

Fighting to save the jobs of public school custodians is about much more than saving jobs--important as it is that we do this. Fair compensation for everyone who works in our public schools is about claiming, reclaiming, and protecting a vital public space and place that makes and keeps civil society civil. The classroom is where we first learn what it means to be "one nation, indivisible."

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Education: a sacred trust

Recently a Republican member of the Kansas legislature reportedly asked if public schools are simply a “jobs program” disguised as education. Behind this awkward question there is a deeper issue: namely, what is the purpose of education?

The USD 259 Board of Education is wrestling with this question in a difficult time as state funding for our schools is being trimmed to the bone, and pressure to privatize custodial services and reduce staff intensifies. To their credit members of the Board of Education have refused to take hasty action. There has been a full house at the last two BOE meetings. People know that the future of our schools depends on the actions the board will take soon.

In my book education is a sacred trust. The purposes of education are to equip students to become knowledgeable citizens and contributing members of society who are able to use their gifts and talents in ways that will improve their lives and the quality of life for others. Schools are given the task of educating the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. Thus, education has several goals: teaching competence, modeling integrity, cultivating a culture of mutual respect, and developing good citizens. Building good character is perhaps the most important purpose of education. It takes people, buildings, and resources to accomplish these goals. Education is and always has been a labor intensive enterprise.

Therefore, the means that we employ in our ministry of education have to be consistent with the ends we hope to achieve. A minimum requirement is respecting the enterprise of education, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone, and paying teachers, librarians, custodians, nurses, administrators, aides, and other staff adequate compensation.

Is education as “jobs program”? No. Education is a sacred trust.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Kansas Legislative Update

Our thanks to the Working Kansas Alliance for this Legislative Update for 2016


The Kansas Legislature returned to work last week on Wednesday. They returned for the annual veto session. The week was full of conference committees where each chamber tries to work out their differences they have on certain bills.

On Friday the Commerce Conference Committee met. In the Conference Committee they inserted HB2576, the piece of legislation that would outlaw cities and/or counties from enacting fair scheduling ordinances into SB366. The intent of this measure is to thwart attempts by cities and counties to require more reasonable scheduling practices for workers, many of who are low-wage, part-time employees. They also inserted 3 other state preemption laws in SB366. All the preemption laws inserted into SB366 were ALEC model pieces of legislation written by corporate lobbyists. This bill would block local governments from implementing innovative ways to effectively address poverty and inequality in our communities. We are strongly opposed to this bill. The Conference Committee agreed to disagree.

Also on Friday the unthinkable seemed to happen, the Tax Conference Committee passed out a measure that would repeal the 2012 LLC tax cuts. The measure first went to the House Floor to be debated. Simply repealing the 2012 LLC tax exemption would not fix the revenue problems our state is facing, it is like applying a Band-Aid to a gunshot wound. When it came time to vote the bill failed, 45-74.

On Saturday SB366 came up for debate and a vote on the House floor. There was a lot of debate but unfortunately SB366 did pass the House. On Sunday SB366 came up for debate and a vote on the Senate floor. There was a long debate on the Senate floor, which mainly focused around how this bill is taking away power from local governments. Unfortunately the bill did pass the Senate with a final vote of 32-6. The bill now heads to the governor.

Also, late Sunday night and early Monday morning the House and Senate debated and voted on the budget bill. The budget itself relies on that Governor Brownback will make millions and millions in cuts to basic government services. The budget also will delay $100 million in payments to KPERS. We can expect that this payment “delay” to KPERS will never get paid back. It also assumes that the state will be left with about $27 million during the current fiscal year and $81 million next year. However as we have seen in the past revenues have consistently fallen short of projections and we can expect that revenues will continue to fall short under this budget because of Brownback’s failed tax and economic experiment. Unfortunately the budget passed both the House and Senate in the dead of night earlyMonday morning with a Senate vote ending around 3:30AM Monday.

This wraps up the 2016 Legislative Session.

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