This isn’t my typical blog, but it is what is laying on my mind and heart. Those of you that know me, know that my heart lies in/with/for urban youth. They humble me with their trials and their triumphs. The potential that they have is limitless. They (and all kids) need our help.
Let me paint a picture of what my district looks like. I work in inner city Kansas City. Our population is 89.09% free and reduced lunch. 82% is straight free lunch. We have homeless students. We have refugees. We have students who speak no English. We have students who are the only income for their entire family.
However, due to the investment of teachers, principals, custodians, secretaries, nurses, paras, coaches, etc…We have students who are Gates Millenium Scholars. We have students playing collegiate sports. We have students at Ivy Leagues. We have students going out and giving back. Our students are not where they come from, but they are shaped by it. It builds their dreams (and can crush them). It gives them purpose (and can snatch it). It makes them multicultural and open-minded (when molded).
What is the point I am trying to make? We need to invest in them. They are our future. The state of Kansas is operating in a huge deficit. The number one place that keeps getting cut, though, year after year, is education. It took the court system to tell the legislators that they need to fund schools fairly for any change to be made for the kids in my district in the past and we are in the middle of another court battle based on recent legislation. For the 2014-2015 school year, we were frozen at the 2003 level. This coming year, the state of Kansas is freezing us at last year’s budget (which really means at the 2003 level). There will be no adjustments for enrollment. So, the fact that our district grows by an average of 500 students every year? Doesn’t matter (at least to state officials). Typically, schools are funded based on needs. So, if you have high numbers of at-risk (high poverty), special education, and/or students who don’t speak fluent English (all of which we have high levels of here in KCK), your school gets extra funding to pay for their special services that are required. Doesn’t matter any more. There will be no weights for funding.
In the day and age of deficit spending, budget cuts DO have to be made. They CANNOT be made in education. I would argue by cutting education now, you are increasing deficits later. You want a smaller welfare system? Give kids the tools to pull themselves out of the cycle of poverty. You want less healthcare costs? Give kids the opportunities to be active and engage in extracurricular activities. You want lower prison/safety costs? Give kids safe places to be, alternatives to gangs for afterschool activities, and the tools to break out. Help kids to see their purpose and help them become part of the solution to build up our communities. This all requires at least investment in our schools. (I would also argue it requires more people to invest in these kids through other avenues as well.)
This cannot happen if the trend of taking from education to fund other things continues. I am using my district as a case and point, but it is common across Kansas and across the country. My school district has had to cut over 55 million dollars over the past 7-8 years. That is 55,000,000.00. We’ve cut 2.2 million in the last three months and are cutting 6.2 million for next school year. This is just the beginning and it is felt across the board.
Please, PLEASE take the time to learn about how the people you vote into office view and support the education of ALL kids. All kids deserve the same opportunity and chance for success, no matter their background, their parent(s)’ history, or their zipcode.
Please, PLEASE take the time to contact your legislators to urge them to support the futures of all students. (See who your representatives, state and national, here (http://www.capitolconnect.com/oklahoma/).
Please, PLEASE think about the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of the kids in your lives. Also, think about the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of the kids in all underprivileged areas (urban and rural). Think about the hopes, dreams and possiblities of our kids that will build our futures. Remember the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of my kids in my city.
More infor Kansans on the state of education and ways to have a voice:
http://gameonforkansasschools.com: Grassroots organization made up of parents, teachers, and concerned community members.
http://www.mainstreamcoalition.org/public_education: This is a group made up of representatives from every political party trying to fight for many things, but especially to support education. After all, republican, democrat, independent, we all need to support leaders of tomorrow.