Archive for Sunday, April 2, 2006

Tax increase needed to pay for education, former senator says

April 2, 2006


Even with a long record of opposing taxation and overspending during her years as a U.S. senator from Kansas, Nancy Kassebaum Baker knows education trumps everything - including fiscal conservatism.

"None of us like to raise taxes," she said. "But we have to be sure we have the incentives to bring the very best."

Kassebaum Baker spoke Saturday at a Kansas University Women's Club scholarship fundraiser, and her focus - as was the case during her years in office - was on education.

Hesitant to talk about the gridlock over education funding in Kansas, she said only that sometimes, legislators needed compromise to make a system work, even if that meant going against core fiscal values.

"It's a tough issue, a divisive issue," she said. "I'd rather raise some taxes, because you can't do it with smoke and mirrors."

She voiced her views on education nationally as well. Tipping her hat to smaller government, she said she would not have voted for No Child Left Behind, a national mandate that requires elementary and secondary students to score well on standardized tests.

Like all mandates, the measure needs money to work, she said.

"Many times, the mandatory requirements aren't funded," Kassebaum Baker told the audience.

But in the long run, standardized testing isn't going to solve the nation's education woes anyway. Instead, parents and teachers need to instill children with a respect for learning, rather than simply doing well on tests, she said.

"We have to realize how important being educated is, in its broadest sense," she said.

Kids today need it, more than ever - not just for education's sake, she said. To compete on a global level, students must have a real understanding of history and culture both here and elsewhere.

The climate she sees in Congress today worries her, she said. Real education requires understanding different opinions, she said.

Lawmakers today are setting a bad educational example, she said.

"Certainties require a tolerance of someone else's certainties," Kassebaum Baker said. "We need to move toward answers that mean something for future generations."

To move toward those answers, the education that children receive should reflect an openness toward the rest of the world, she said.

Her time in other countries - both during her years in office and recently - showed her the perils of a society in which education occurs in a relative vacuum.

Japan, she said, has for decades been a closed society where education often suffers.

"That would worry me," she said.

But here in her country, her state, her worries continue. Her stint in office ended years ago, but her drive for better education continues.

She wants a focus on music, art and physical education in schools. She wants up-and-coming teachers to be looked at in the same light as medical students and law students.

Laura Burrows plans to focus on helping teachers teach. A KU doctoral student in higher education administration and a KU Women's Club scholar, Kassebaum Baker's speech hit home for her.

"She's right," Burrows said. "We need music and art. I absolutely agree with everything she said."


Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.


Public education has been attacked on many fronts by those whose vested interests would benefit from its problems, and by elected officials who are seeking ways to justify down-sizing, privatizing or eliminating public agencies and institutions to cover budget shortfalls.

It is easier, for example, to gain public support for charter schools, voucher systems or to cut funding to public schools if public schools are viewed as dangerous places where little learning occurs and teachers are incompetent or engaged in a conspiracy to undermine children's values and destroy the concept of the family.

The truth is, in spite of the violence surrounding schools, schools are still the safest places for children. Children who have supportive, attentive parents (and many who do not) continue to learn there, and teachers today are still among the most conservative family and child-oriented members of mainstream society.

Schools are a microcosm of our society and are not immune from the forces that tear at our social fabric. One cannot address the problems of the schools without considering the social milieu within which they are located.

Gov. George Allen has promised school reform in Virginia. Granted, some changes are needed, but we need to closely monitor the changes which were proposed during the recent legislative session. Ken Stroupe, a spokesman for the governor, has said that the school reform plan for Virginia would not include ``trendy theories advocated by federal bureaucrats and education experts.''

Trendy theories such as charter schools, advocated by those who are not experts, will be considered, however. (Imagine the incredulity with which the public would view a recommendation that medical practice should be revolutionized without considering the input of medical experts!)

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago


Charter schools have a poor track record in other states. So far, they do not provide an adequate model for school reform. In Virginia, the proposed charter schools would be exempt from accreditation standards, a quality safeguard which, among other things, requires adequate school libraries, certified teachers and a research-based curriculum. To support charter schools would dilute already scarce funds.

Perhaps, a more sensible approach to school reform would be to identify existing high quality programs and commit to ensuring that all schools have the means to implement proven strategies.

Exemplary models for school reform can be found in existing public school programs. Consider the conclusions drawn from a recent Money magazine survey of public and private schools. In the article, Why Private Schools Are Rarely Worth the Money,'' Money reports that,You get the best value for your education dollar at a top public school.''

When these criteria were rated: teachers' qualifications, class size, discipline problems, ethnic diversity, facilities, course offerings and cost, a number of interesting facts were revealed. For example, the survey found that the best public schools offer a more challenging curriculum than most private schools, the average public school teacher has better academic qualifications than the average private school teacher, and students who attend the best public schools outperform most private school students. Perhaps, the best models for school reform can be found by identifying exemplary public school programs.

In many communities, the public schools are the last institutions where children come into contact with adults who care about them and engage them in sustained, nurturing relationships. If we wish to safeguard public education for future generations, we must be careful that we don't allow those who think of children as cash crops for investors to trade in public education for the corporate bottom line and strip the assets of our schools. These assets cannot be rebuilt in our lifetime. MEMO: Carole Whitener, a professor of child development at the Chesapeake

campus of Tidewater Community College, is president-elect of the

Virginia Association for the Education of Young Children.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 8 months ago

Look if we shut down the public school system in favor of a private system without accountability funded with our tax dollars we would then have a public school system that answered to nothing but the bottom line. Why wouldn't corporate private schools over charge taxpayers such that the military industrial complex or Halliburton does?

The concept of private schools that most of us possess would change dramatically when they become inundated with all of the same situations of the public school system. Private schools are percieved as better probaly because it's only a certain aspect of our community can afford to send their children to these schools. There is never a guarantee any child does better.

We are led to believe all will be better due to the constant drum beat that public schools are destroying our moral fiber which is a load of crap and that the teaching staff is no good. Where does anyone believe the pool of teachers for private schools will be chosen from?

Jamesaust 9 years, 8 months ago

"[Kassebaum] wants up-and-coming teachers to be looked at in the same light as medical students and law students."

I'm sure they would be IF they lived up to the same professional standards that doctors and lawyers do.

Ending the government monopoly of education must be very frightening to teachers as it removes the safety net for them. But they should look upon it as an opportunity to be recognized for their societal value ("looked at in the same light") and expand opportunities for their professional accomplishment.

doc1 9 years, 8 months ago

They need to do whatever they need to do. The school system in Lawrence is embarrasing. Our kids go to school in trailors. How ghetto is that.

usaschools 9 years, 8 months ago

Finally a voice of reason telling the truth that those of both parties avoid speaking out loud. They all know it is true, but are more concerned with re-election than with making Kansas schools the best they can be.

Jamesaust, I have the feeling that you have NO idea what professional standards teachers are or are not held to. I don't know one teacher who thinks of public education as a "saftey net," nor one who is concerned that they would be unable to teach in some sort of privatized system. The scary thing is that you seem to actually believe the somewhat ludicrous line of reasoning behind your "government monopoly of education" posts. Unlike doctors and lawyers, teachers have to deal with public perception fueled by politicians who come up with anti-education talking points such as the ridiculous "teachers call themselves professionals, but they are not" talking point, among many, many others.

Godot 9 years, 8 months ago

"And, with very few exceptions, we can say the same for public school teachers. They are doing the work of DEMOCRACY. They are responsible for inculcating CITIZENSHIP. "

That is true in a totalitarian society, not in a democracy. In a democracy, we hire teachers to instruct students in academics, not ideology. Your idea of citizenship may be (and probably is) diametrically opposed to mine; thus, I do not hire you to indoctrinate my child with your political viewpoint, I hire you to teach reading, writing, 'rithmatic, history and science.

Leave your political rantings out of the classroom.

usaschools 9 years, 8 months ago

I think what Bennyoates was saying when he/she referred to "doing the work of democracy.,...inculating citizenship" was not a reference to teaching ideology. I believe that the point that was being made in reference to public school teachers is that teaching children to be literate is preparing them for citizenship. They need to be functionally literate to be part of an informed electorate.

I would also add that many general citizenship skills are, in fact, part of the duty of public school teachers. We teach children to resolve conflicts, the reasons why we have a rule of law, and general social studies and health concepts that are part of being a god citizen.

Godot 9 years, 8 months ago

Is raising the Mexican flag above the American flag, as happened at a Texas school, part of that guidance in citizenship? Is prohibiting military recruiters on school grounds part of that citizenship? Is refusing to display the USA flag because it "upsets" some students part of that citizenship?

Forgive me if I say that I do not trust today's teachers with the duty of instilling citizenship.

usaschools 9 years, 8 months ago

Godot, you are clearly somewhat of a fanatic. However, you are mixing up your details here. Universities, not public schools, were the center of the debate about miliatry recruiters. I have seen none in elementary school. We don't recruit them quite that young yet.

Although I suppose there could be a VERY isolated case of some school not showing the US flag, you would be wrong if you meant to imply this was a widespread practice. In Lawrence, if an elementary classroom doesn't have a US flag displayed, it is because the old one wore out and there was no money for a new one!

As for the reported incident at a Texas school, I don't find this to be all that shocking, nor do I think it threatens our youth.

The point is, you appear to have misunderstood the post of Bennyoates. If not, your response was a gross overreaction that made little sense. If so, you should just own up to it rather than just launch another attack at teachers with no real substantial evidence to back it up. You ought to think about the millions of children who DO become good citizens thanks to the teachers of today. Fortunately, most reasonable and informed adults disagree with you and feel that our schools perform very well. Why do you hate public education so much?

Godot 9 years, 8 months ago

USAschools, are you condemning the USA schools that either fly the Mexican flag and/or prohibit the flying of the flag of the USA?

djazz 9 years, 8 months ago

I have a BS in music ed, ME in administration, and a public school teacher. Reality_Check is exactly right.

These wild notions that teachers aren't held accountable, and are a bunch of aging incompetent buffoons is absolute nonsense. Been a school lately?

KWCoyote 9 years, 8 months ago

Arminius, when I was in college in the late 1960s, and 20 years later, the two academically lowest-rated groups of students were business students and physical education students, according to the ACT scores of entering students. The highest were in engineering, arts and sciences. Arts and sciences students also had a lot of overlap with education students. That is to say, education students studied with and kept up with very able peers.

To repeat, the business students who now are managers and bosses funding rightwing Republicans were near the bottom of the barrel in college.

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