Public schools are an idea older than America, and it was immediately understood that for any democracy to flourish, public education was a prerequisite. But in Kansas, they’re an idea that may be on the way out.
Kansas has been engaged in a great project for the last two decades—one of running the clock backwards to tear down every institution, every fragment of infrastructure, every symbol of community, and every aspect of a functioning society. Under Governor Sam Brownback, the state has been rabidly tearing away all those nasty regulations and taxes that kept things running in favor of a glorious capitalist paradise. One that’s arriving any minute now. Any minute now. Any minute …
In the meantime, the state’s indebtedness has soared and funding for schools has collapsed. When the Kansas Supreme Court ordered that schools be properly funded, a vote to strip the constitutional power of the Supreme Court failed by a single vote before an agreement was made to fund schools one more year by selling off state assets and scraping funds from all around the budget. It’s a “solution” that’s decidedly temporary, and which leaves next year completely up in the air. The state is broke. Republicans are still dead set on their march to destruction. There’s nothing left to sell.
So what to do now? Dismiss the notion of “public” education and replace it with another term.
“My mother, who is a Tea Party person, started saying ‘government schools’ all the time,” said Ms. Massman, recalling when she first heard the phrase around 2010. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow.’” …
“Our local grade school is now the government school,” State Senator Forrest Knox wrote in an op-ed article last year, echoing conservative concerns that the government had inserted itself unnecessarily into education.
Government schools. Where they teach you math and science and worst of all, history. But there’s something even worse that happens in government schools: children get free or reduced-cost meals. The idea that poor children are getting to eat is deeply offensive to conservatives.
They oppose programs that offer free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches, believing that schools have become part of the “nanny state” — another politically charged term — and are usurping the role of parents.
By setting up public education as “government schools,” Kansas Republicans want to imply a sort of grey, institutional setting lifted from 1984. That way, by the time it comes around to debate again next year, the whole idea will seem distasteful.
Kansas: You may think they’ve found the bottom, but they’re still digging.