Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): The Brownback Education Plan reminds me of The Hunger Games

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Brownback Education Plan reminds me of The Hunger Games

The Brownback campaign is rolling out an updated "Roadmap for Kansas" via a statewide tour. 

And it is maddening. At least, the education part of the tour is egregious.

"Every Kansas child should have access to a quality education that not only meets their individual needs but also embraces their specific talents and interests," the plan reads.

Sounds good to me, until you dig a little deeper. Here's what he means:

• More local control of public schools

That's good, but it's not exactly reaching for the stars. To me, touting how an education should be tailored to an individual child's needs and saying the locals are better at making that determination still misses a very important point: We are all individuals, and "local control" of state funded public schools is still a one-size-fits all education, albeit more localized, I suppose.

It reminds me of the "Hunger Games," in which district in Panem had one responsibility. For example, district 12, from where our protagonist hails, was responsible for mining. Every child there grew up to become a miner. If you were a child born in District 12 with a special gift for art or athletics or science, too bad.

I realize that Brownback is campaigning scared. He's worried about the education lobby, but I am here to tell him that the education lobby isn't quite as powerful as it once was. They do a lot of screaming and yelling, but most of the general populace realizes that it's so much ado about nothing. 

I already gave the Brownback campaign a task -- create a meme. They screwed it up, but I'm going to help them out again with a little messaging. 

Find a child -- a real, live child -- who has been failed by the public schools in Kansas -- maybe a gifted child or one who has an IEP that the public schools just aren't able to do. I'd probably find a child in Johnson County with autism. (I am NOT saying "use" or take advantage of this child, but I am saying get his or her parents' permission and make a point that that the public schools are failing some kids -- especially those who have incredible or different gifts.)

I am saying autism, because there used to be a private school in Johnson County that specifically tailored its program to educating students with autism. It was prohibitively expensive, but those kids were getting a hand-crafted education that very specifically met their individualized needs, rather than a cookie-cutter special needs program that essentially puts some kids with autism in padded rooms in the public schools.

Make the case for vouchers, and give it a human face. The campaign could also find a kid with extraordinary talent -- one training for the Olympics or focused on some goal that makes going to a physical public school everyday nearly impossible. And then find the school that addresses that problem. Hint -- there are online charter public high schools, that receive public funding. Shine a light on some of those programs that already exist and encourage the establishment of more with a voucher program.

Yes, I said it. Discuss, debate, and lead the voucher program discussion.

This message requires REAL people carrying the message. And by real, I mean, not Brownback. He looks so stiff and unnatural in his campaign ads and even in photos. So stop using him. Find a spokesperson -- i.e., someone who can personally make the case and then slap the Paid for by Brownback at the end or whatever.

• Oppose involuntary consolidation of rural schools

This is not good fiscal policy, and it smacks of pandering. Kansas has way, way too many separate, public school districts. I think there are 396. That's outrageous, and when superintendents and administrators are earning six-figure incomes, the public really can't afford to just continue funding 400 school districts because we don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. 

I am not suggesting closing schools. But I am suggesting consolidating in such a way that each district includes a nice big number, say 10,000 students. That doesn't mean the students hop on a bus and travel 100 miles for school. That means the district administration building is moved into a central location, and administrative staff is cut. 

Cutting administrators means cutting on-going, continuous staff salaries. That's money that can be funneled directly into classrooms or to teachers. 

Here's the whole sordid thing. I have more problems with it than I am willing to list right now. Stay tuned.

 

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