Voter push: More Kansans should embrace need to engage in democracy.

5/21/2014

Teachers in Shawnee Mission have cause to celebrate.

Teachers in Shawnee Mission have cause to celebrate.

Their peers in smaller, less affluent school districts, not so much.

Shawnee Mission teachers recently received a 3.25 percent base salary increase. Good for them.

But at the same time, it hurts to know many poorer districts in Kansas cannot consider such raises, and instead face job losses and other cuts due to misguided policymaking in the Kansas Statehouse.

Massive income-tax breaks for the wealthy have failed to generate the economic "shot of adrenaline" promised by Gov. Sam Brownback and his ultraconservative Republican camp.

With the state sinking in debt and borrowing more, less state funding will trickle down to communities. While wealthier school districts will have no problem relying more on local support for public schools, it's a dismal prospect elsewhere — including smaller, rural districts in western Kansas.

Blame the mess on the 2012 GOP primary loss of many pro-education state senators who were sent packing in favor of candidates endorsed by an ultraconservative Americans for Prosperity-Kansas Chamber-Koch brothers faction that works against public schools.

Kansans who sat out that primary — and teachers in particular — should take notice.

Making a difference in the election process in Kansas often means participating in GOP primaries, where many races are decided.

By changing parties, Democrats can engage in the Aug. 5 Republican primary and help make a stand against GOP extremists. Prospective voters have until July 1 this year to switch; starting next year, the deadline will move up a month due to a new law pushed by ultraconservatives worried about such party-switching.

The GOP primary will again be pivotal, as the AFP-Kansas Chamber-Koch machine is seeking more challengers to reasonable Republicans who would block their radical pursuits.

Our local and area Kansas House members — Rep. John Doll, R-Garden City; Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin; and Rep. Don Hineman, R-Dighton — are likely targets because they had the good sense and courage to vote against harmful education-related legislation in the recent session.

Kansans who stood silent in the 2012 primary — and now are alarmed by what's transpired — must step up and support candidates who value teachers and schools.

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