Letters to the Editor

Letters on public education, Common Core bill, juvenile justice reform, role of government

Legislature determined to control education

The Legislature seems determined to take control of all aspects of public education except adequate funding.

It has a bill to promote funding of private schools and rewards for those private citizens who invest in them (House Bill 2457). House Bill 2504 calls for a consolidation of school districts, with little thought given to the ramifications for the schools, students and faculty involved and the affected communities. House Bill 2199 calls for the state to write the sexuality education curriculum and everyone to follow it.

There is an attack on Common Core standards that could result in a lot of curricula needing to be written, and new textbooks obtained, when districts are already short of money. Plus, the guidelines the Legislature is trying to set up are very confusing. This bill threatens to do away with Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs as well. The Common Core battle in our Legislature was fought in 2009, but apparently some lawmakers can’t let it go.

There are other attempts to take over education. It seems to me that the Legislature is against graduating well-educated, critical-thinking young people. Do you suppose lawmakers fear that knowledgeable youths will not accept the conservative ideology they want to cram down their throats?

Margot Breckbill, Valley Center

Needed for scholarships

Has the Legislature considered what to do when Kansas high school graduates do not qualify for any academic college scholarships because the state no longer gives them a chance to take the ACT and SAT tests, as they aligned to the Common Core standards?

My daughter was recruited by several colleges because of her results on the ACT. When students take the test, they can arrange to have the results sent to preferred colleges and made available to other colleges that check the results of those tests to recruit, with scholarships, high-performing students to attend their college.

Will the legislators have a note that graduating seniors can send to colleges explaining that Kansas no longer offers those tests, nor International Baccalaureate or Advanced Placement classes? Test scores and transcripts with evidence of rigor are necessary to receive scholarships.

There is competition for scholarships to nearly all colleges. So how will our students compete with graduates from other states without standardized test scores?

This is another example of legislative action without discussion and intelligent consideration on the part of our elected officials.

Clarence Gilbert, Rose Hill

Right to education

“Why,” an acquaintance asked recently, “should I pay for somebody else’s kid to go to school? Not my kid, not my problem. Let their parents pay.”

This seems to be the general attitude shared by Kansas’ legislative body, which keeps dicing public education funding into ever-smaller bits in a transparent attempt to privatize our education system. This position undermines our core principles.

One of the reasons our legal system is respected the world over is that every citizen is entitled to competent legal representation, regardless of ability to pay. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to defend you. This is so important that your case can be dismissed if it can be proved you weren’t well-represented the first time.

Public education is built on that same idea: All kids have the right to a competent education, regardless of their ability to pay. Our parents and grandparents benefited from solid K-12 funding and affordable public college programs. It is time those same elders pay it forward and restore funding to rebuild and strengthen public education for the future.

Casey Barnaby, Wichita

Harmful to children

The Kansas Senate would like to establish a program allowing nonsmoking, non-drinking couples who have been married at least seven years to be foster parents with an incentive of $4,000 for private or home schooling.

This plan is harmful to children. A child who enters foster care is abruptly removed from his or her home, family and school. The only continuity the child might have is to stay in public school.

Public schools offer special services and similar curriculum. Children with special needs continue to be served, and education is not as disrupted because public schools follow the same standards. This is not true in a home school or private school.

Frequently it is someone at school who reports the abuse or neglect that leads to children being removed from a dangerous situation. This process is established and effective in public schools, something that is not assured in private or home school.

This plan does not identify who would be good foster parents – only those who fit the preferences of some legislators. Indeed, this list of “qualifications” would have allowed serial killer Dennis Rader to be a foster parent.

KayLynn Smith, Rose Hill

Restorative justice

I applaud the latest evidence of juvenile justice reform in Kansas. Senate Bill 367 shifts funding from incarcerating youths to evidence-based rehabilitative community programs. If it becomes law, Kansas youths and families will likely receive the support and guidance needed – especially if reforms are restorative. Kansas would join a current international wave of restorative justice notably and universally grounded in ageless values.

Illicit behaviors that begin with youth have deep and substantial roots – including our failure to provide high support to families and children for meeting society’s high expectations. When harm occurs, restorative approaches hold kids and families accountable. Youth prisons based on the paradigm of “crime and punishment” do not. Instead, “choice and consequence” works naturally and contextually for changing thinking and future behavior, rather than making people suffer for poor choices.

A day for a youth in prison costs more than $240, while a day in school averaged $73 last year. Kansas policymakers must create a juvenile justice system that is more supportive, fair and cost-effective, while investing in education and guidance that give all young Kansans a real chance to be productive.

Rob Simon, Wichita

Government needed

It was great to read that Charles Koch agrees that we are more divided than ever between the very, very rich and the rest of the country (“Sanders and I agree on a few issues,” Feb. 21 Opinion).

It was also no surprise to read that his solution is very small and weak government. But he has missed something very important about the genius of American political philosophy: checks and balances.

The very, very rich not only have most of the money in this country, but they also have most of the power because they are able to fund politicians, and buy those fancy large postcards and scary TV ads, as well as fund the multitude of foundations and university professors to pitch their philosophy attacking public schools and other public services.

Government is the check and the balance on abuses of the very rich people and corporations. There is no other. The very, very rich people and corporations do not check themselves. The marketplace system they embrace as the sole solution encourages the accumulation of more and more wealth and power – and using that power to accumulate more wealth.

Historically, government has been there to protect the common person, the children, the mentally ill, the poor and those oppressed because of race or gender amid the operation of the market system that has only one goal – maximizing profit.

Government is not perfect, but it is the only way to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

John Henderson, Wichita

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