Today in Topeka supporters of more taxes for Kansas public school spending marched from the headquarters of Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA, the teachers union), to the Kansas Capitol, where they heard from speakers including Governor Parkinson. The crowd, braving the windy and cold weather, was estimated at 1,000 by the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The theme of the rally — besides more taxes and more spending — was the chant “We want what’s right, not what’s left!” I don’t think the participants detected the irony.
Kansas Senator Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat and a schoolteacher, said that keeping class sizes small, keeping quality teachers, and making sure that all children have an equal opportunity to succeed are the right things to do. Early childhood education and more technology are needed. He advocated for increasing state funding of Kansas schools instead of reliance on local property taxes.
He said that investment in education is less expensive than paying to house prisoners.
Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson acted as cheerleader for the crowd. He said that the outcome of the school funding battle will define the type of state we want to be: “Do we want to be a state that tears down our schools and refuses to fund education for our schoolchildren, or do we want to be a state that lifts up our schools, lifts up our teachers, and provides an education for every kid?”
He asked whether we wanted to be a state where only the children of the wealthy can get a good education. He urged the group to go into action by emailing, writing, and calling legislators. He said the message to give them is not only to support education, as all legislators say they support education. Instead, Parkinson said to ask them: “Will you raise taxes to save schools?”
He said we can do this — saving schools, presumably — with just a one cent increase in the sales tax. He said that the “so-called economists” on the right will say that a one cent sales tax will tear down our economy. He referred to the Sedgwick County sales tax used to build the Intrust Bank Arena, saying that people told him they didn’t know when the tax went on and off, claiming that no one noticed it. “Where are our priorities? If we can raise taxes one cent to build an arena, surely we can raise taxes on cent to help every schoolchild.”
Several speakers stressed the importance of education for the future well-being of our economy and country.
The Kansas teachers union’s role in this rally is ironic to the point of absurdity, as it has been one of the major impediments to improving public schools. A recent letter in the Wall Street Journal described how the teachers union and its rules has harmed Topeka schools.
School spending supporters spend a lot of time talking about investing in education. But spending on public education is not really investing. It’s simply government spending on government schools. It results in jobs being transferred from the productive private sector to the unproductive public sector.
We must also disagree with the governor when he minimizes the impact of a sales tax on the economy. Despite the governor’s contention — I’ll chalk it up to rhetorical excess — I certainly noticed when the Sedgwick County sales tax started and stopped. A sales tax increase does result in lost private sector jobs. It results in lost economic freedom, as explained in Tax increases will cost Kansas jobs, economic freedom.
If a sales tax increase could be used to fund increased spending on schools without harming the economy, why stop at a one cent increase? Why not three or four cents? Or ten cents on the dollar? As we’ve seen, no amount of increased spending will satisfy the school spending lobby, at least not until all private sector wealth is transferred to the government.
Finally, for those who are willing to cast the lot of Kansas schoolchildren with the current system, consider the Adequate Yearly Funding website created to support this rally. The creator of this site, apparently Noah Slay, a third grade teacher and one of the rally organizers and speakers, evidently doesn’t know how to correctly form the plural of a word like “logo.” Twice the site erroneously creates the plural form of this noun using the greengrocer’s apostrophe: “If you’re creative and enjoy creating interesting and catchy slogans and logo’s …”