Earlier this week, the US edition of The Guardian posted an article by Sarah Smarsh on the state of public education in Kansas. As reported in earlier blog posts, KS finds itself in a funding crisis because their Governor has lowered taxes to entice the expansion of business and recently lost a Supreme Court case filed by a parent who felt that KS was not sufficiently funding its schools and that lack of funding resulted unconstitutional inequities. The Guardian suggests that the Governor or the legislature, which is sympathetic to his cause, might offer a solution that would not only please the court, but would also please privatization advocates like the Koch bothers who live in KS and the large number of fundamental Christians: vouchers. If the legislature closed public schools and offered vouchers to parents that could be used in any school at all, fundamentalists could open private academies to address their concerns about the secular humanism rampant in public education and the Koch brothers’ kindred spirits could open for profit charters and taxpayers wouldn’t have to pay any more money at all. It would be a win-win-win for the taxpayers, the fundamentalists, and the profiteers… but it would be dreadful for the very students whose parent filed the lawsuit because it would end public education as we know it today.
Smarsh notes parallels between Brown v Board of Education in 1954 and this case today, one of which was that the plaintiffs in both cases were pastors of churches. She writes:
It was a good legal strategy that a longtime Christian clergyman became the namesake for Gannon v Kansas (the lawsuit seeking funding equity), a lawsuit bent on increasing funding for a secular institution. Similarly, in Brown v Board some 60 years ago, Topeka dad Oliver Brown took the title spot for being a respected pastor. The two cases contain plenty more parallels, and if there was a poor people’s movement to match the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century today, people would be marching in the streets – not to desegregate schools but to keep them open.
Unfortunately for those of us who want to see a strong and vibrant public education system, the poor people whose children are being shortchanged cannot see how the system is working against them and taking tax revenues to either promote religion or increase profits. The war against the poor is subtler than racism but every bit as pernicious… and seemingly as intractable.
Paul Krugman’s column in todays NYTimes decries the love affair we have with carbon and the resulting focus on the completion of Keystone XL. The recently elected Republican majority in the House and Senate are moving quickly to pass a bill that would require the completion of this pipeline, using the idea that doing so is imperative because of the jobs it would create. Midway through his column that excoriates the obstructionism that has taken place over the past six years, Krugman acknowledges that Keystone XL will create jobs, but suggests another way that the government could also create jobs:
Yes, approving the pipeline would mobilize some money that would otherwise have sat idle, and in so doing create some jobs — 42,000 during the construction phase, according to the most widely cited estimate. (Once completed, the pipeline would employ only a few dozen workers.) But government spending on roads, bridges and schools would do the same thing.
While I was glad to see “schools” included in the list, I felt a need to emphasize the jobs lost as well as the infrastructure needs of schools and so left this comment:
In analyzing jobs lost and “infrastructure” needs, do not overlook all of the cuts public schools were forced to make when state and local budgets were cut as a result of the bubble breaking. Public schools across this country have millions of dollars of deferred maintenance projects and thousands of jobs that need to be refilled. We need to rebuild our roads and bridges… but we need to rebuild our schools and restore our workforce in education as well… and doing that would create FAR more value and FAR more jobs than Keystone XL.
I hope that some members of the minority party will take up this issue in the coming months. If we want to help middle class Americans we should be helping those who work in public schools for they are the core of the middle class.