KNEA: Let’s just raise taxes

Recently Blake West, who is president of Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), our state’s teachers union, penned a piece defending his union and attacking critics of public school spending and results achieved in Kansas.

Titled Fighting for education, it starts off with a reminder of what is wrong with public education in Kansas: It’s a government program. It’s funded through taxation. It’s managed by bureaucrats spending someone else’s money. It incubates the well-known problems that exist when there’s a disconnect between receiving something that other pay for. It caters to a union that pretends to still be the professional association it once was, but now has all the harmful characteristics of modern labor unions and the government employee unions modeled after them.

In a civil society, we shouldn’t have to fight over the education of children. This is a matter that once was handled very well in America through markets, that is, through voluntary cooperation. But now, as Kansas Policy Institute’s Dave Trabert aptly notes, “KNEA wants to raise taxes.”

Beyond that, KNEA and the public school spending machine block all attempts at reforms, except those that come from university colleges of education, and the evidence is that those don’t work very well.

Interestingly, West criticizes accountability accomplished through “useless questions that oversimplify student achievement as a list of things that are easy to ask, easy to grade, easy to quantify.” Undoubtedly referring to the federal No Child Left Behind law, it’s confusing to see West criticize government at the same time he defends government schools. But the teachers unions and the school spending bureaucracy reject market-based accountability, too.

West, in his piece, stands up for teachers and defends them against the criticism he says is leveled at them. But his defense is misplaced. Most critics of public schools criticize the system, of which the teachers union that West heads is part. And with the dismal results that schools turn in, year after year, West — his union machinery and the system he defends — justly deserves criticism.

Kansas education officials refuse to discuss better learning opportunities

By Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute

According to the U.S. Department of Education, only a third of Kansas students are proficient in reading and roughly one out of four are functionally illiterate. You might expect that education officials would welcome an opportunity to examine what other states are doing to address these unacceptably low achievement levels, but sadly they refuse to even have a discussion.

Some are even deliberately mischaracterizing efforts to do so. A recent editorial by Kansas National Education Association president Blake West falsely described the premise of Kansas Policy Institute’s proposing public forums as: “Since we can’t afford great schools in tight budget times, what would you be most willing to cut from public education?”

Mr. West and the KNEA know that’s not true. Earlier this year KPI asked KNEA, the Department of Education, State Board of Education and the Kansas Association of School Boards if they “… would be willing to participate in some type of open, public discussion of all the issues.” The invitation was prompted by their public ridicule of public forums KPI held to share Florida’s remarkable progress on raising achievement levels, which many attribute to a broad array of reforms.

This group met but KPI couldn’t agree to their insistence on excluding education experts from outside the state, so we moved forward with our own event and invited them all to participate. The Why Not Kansas Education Summit is on September 15 in Overland Park. National experts on charter schools, vouchers and tax credit scholarships for the underprivileged and special needs students, expanding online learning and retaining and rewarding effective teachers will talk about how many states are using these learning opportunities to raise achievement levels. Kansas education officials are invited to participate in a panel discussion about these opportunities; most have declined, but the discussion will still be held with legislators.

The KNEA solution is essentially “just spend more.” Mr. West writes, “The most important question is: ‘What educational opportunities for our children do we believe are so important that we WANT to pay taxes to fund our schools?'”

And there you have it. KPI wants to talk about expanding learning opportunities. KNEA wants to raise taxes.

We’ve already tried the “just spend more” solution but it’s been a miserable failure. Proficiency levels are relatively unchanged since 1998 while total funding for Kansas public schools increased by $2.5 billion. Thank goodness spending isn’t the answer, because if $2.5 billion barely moves the needle, we’d never have enough money to provide students with the effective education they deserve.

This isn’t about hating kids, attempting to destroy public education or the other false accusations thrown at those who dare to question the status quo. We have to acknowledge the disappointing truth about student achievement levels and find new approaches. Some students certainly get a good education, but pretending most students have high achievement levels only hurts them in the long run.

States all around the country are stepping up to the challenge and adopting a combination of student-focused reforms. We hope education officials reconsider our invitation and join us to discuss how new approaches can help more students reach their full potential.

For more information on the event mentioned, click on Why Not Kansas Education Summit.


14 thoughts on “KNEA: Let’s just raise taxes”

  1. Teacher bashing again Bob?

    Have you no shame? When are you going to get it through your thick head that the “business model” doesn’t work for essential government/community services like fire protection, law enforcement and schools? Sure you COULD privatize any or all of these services but why would anyone want to put profit ahead of the best interests of the community?

    I guess you wouldn’t see that logic since you only do what your corporate masters tell you to do.

  2. I read this article and I didn’t see any instances of Bob bashing or criticizing teachers. The comment left above is another example of liberals and progressives lying when they have no argument to make. That is shameful.

    No wonder the leftists comment anonymously. No actual person would want to take responsibility for these things.

  3. “No wonder the leftists comment anonymously. No actual person would want to take responsibility for these things.”

    This is coming from “Anonymous”. What a hypocrite!

  4. Well, I’m NOT anonymous – and I’m happy to respond, Americans4Prosperity.

    Even in your first comment, all you did was bash the blog author rather than refute his points, which are still valid despite your sneering about corporate sponsorship/privatization of more education opportunites.

    So – can you give evidence that raising taxes will do a better job of educating our kids? There’s only so much money in the public system garnered for education, and increasing taxes to get MORE money doesn’t immediately solve the problem of raising education standards for our children, which is a huge issue for this state. I’d be eager to hear what your thoughts are on that.

  5. Posting as “RG” is still anonymous.

    There are really no “points” to refute. This blog is just cranks out whatever nonsense the Koch financed Kansas Policy Institute tells it to post. There is NO place for your vaunted “corporate sponsorship/privatization” in education. None.

    When you say there is only so much money for education you are absolutely wrong. The Constitution of the State of Kansas is quite clear as to the responsibility of the Legislature to fund education advancement. It doesn’t say that it is discretionary, it just has to be done. Your assertion about raising taxes/doing a better job educating kids is a non-sequitar. It’s about choices really. Do you give tax breaks to the people who don’t really need it or do you fund education the way the Constitution requires?

    Stop trying to fly a canard out there to divert the attention away from reality.

  6. And “Americans4Prosperity” is any better as an Internet pseudonym?

    “This blog is just cranks out whatever nonsense the Koch financed Kansas Policy Institute tells it to post.”

    An affiliation with an organization that you happen to dislike doesn’t immediately invalideate the point made in this particular post. Substance counts more than pointing fingers at where one organization gets funds to write about policies it supports.

    “There is NO place for your vaunted “corporate sponsorship/privatization” in education. None.”

    Prove it. Thus far we only have your word for it – and an opinion from a clever moniker is still just an opinion.

    “When you say there is only so much money for education you are absolutely wrong. The Constitution of the State of Kansas is quite clear as to the responsibility of the Legislature to fund education advancement. It doesn’t say that it is discretionary, it just has to be done. Your assertion about raising taxes/doing a better job educating kids is a non-sequitar. It’s about choices really.”

    Last I checked, the state Legislature doesn’t allocate the entire FY budget for public education only. So while you’re correct that “It just has to be done,” my point still stands – a certain amount of the annual budget goes towards the public school system. Increasing taxes still doesn’t solve what ails the system in general; throwing money at a problem usually doesn’t.

    “Do you give tax breaks to the people who don’t really need it or do you fund education the way the Constitution requires?”

    By “people who don’t really need it,” do you mean educators outside the public school system?

    “Stop trying to fly a canard out there to divert the attention away from reality.”

    And that reality would entail what, exactly? That raising taxes would improve the Kansas public education system as attempted once before?

  7. “It’s about choices really.”

    I’ll give you that much, but from your post it doesn’t seem like many choices are actually available.

  8. Also, I would say that your faith in the Kansas Constitution is unrealistic, if recent court cases concerning per-pupil funding for the state’s school districts are any indication. Just saying.

  9. Someone shared with me the recent postings by Mr. Weeks and Mr. Trabert. I read with interest the quotes that were pulled and the interpretations provided… As a rule the misinformation offered by Mr. Trabert and Mr. Weeks fails to warrant a reply, I would offer three quick observations at least this one time. First, there is ample evidence even from Kansas’ own Legislative Post Audit to refute point after point in the postings by Mr. Trabert about student achievement and funding. In particular, increased funding for public schools during the period up until 2008 was accompanied with commensurate improvement on state assessments. I would join business leaders from around the nation in calling for more meaningful assessments, of course, but money does make a difference even on these narrow measures.
    Secondly, Mr. Weeks seems to attempt to rewrite American history, by implying that it was not public schools… paid for with tax dollars… that supported the transformation of our nation from an agrarian society, through the industrial age, helping courageous generations who paid those taxes win two World Wars, and creating the opportunities for people like me who came from a family without any great wealth.
    Finally, it’s time to end the rhetoric of trying to rename the public schools in our neighborhoods across Kansas as “government schools.” Let’s take ownership of our responsibilities as citizens to fund PUBLIC education to provide opportunities for each of our nation’s children. Taxes for schools, roads, and the infrastructure built by previous generations continue to be an investment in the future for our children and the responsibility of good citizens. I also hope these gentlemen will join us in calling for genuine school improvement – ensuring that 21st century skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and communication are infused throughout teaching and learning and that they become the heart of assessments rather than multiple guess questions about who has memorized the most facts.

  10. We have a governor who does not support education. He cut support for public education. His only goal is to take Kansas back 150 years. He wants the state to be run as a theocracy. We can make no progress in education until he is out of here.

  11. Mr. Weeks must be doing something right to get such a heated response about the government monopoly school system in this country from seeing some of the comments listed above. Mr. Trabert’s information has much more credibility than the KNEA’s tired and repetitious complaint that it is always about more tax money. That old complaint has continued to be used for decades here.

    That’s why there is the on going lawsuits seeking more tax funds. If you can’t get the elected officials to raise taxes, get the activist courts filled with statists to do the heavy lifting. That is a reason why this state lags economically.

    Let me add that the state assessment process is not a good benchmark.

    Norm referenced testing, like the NAEP, indicates little progress for KS students in the government school monopoly despite expenditures that in some school districts in this state now exceed $15,000 per pupil per year. This is a major burden on this state’s overtaxed economy, and the government employee unions continue to want more.

    We need more educational performance that competition and choice will provide and not more taxes.

  12. Hi, the fact that the Gov isn’t interested in raising taxes to add more money to the education budget doesn’t mean that he isn’t supportive of education. We’re not getting our money’s worth now, how will more spending help? We have too many expenditures in the schools that have nothing to do with reading, writing, and arithmetic.

    Have fun with the Bob Bashing Y’all.

  13. There isn’t a monopoly on schools. If a person wants to send their child to a private school or home school their child, they can. How is that a monopoly?

  14. Shhh… T. Rex…you don’t want to arouse cognitive dissonance. These are soft heads you’re dealing with. They’re much more likely to explode.

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