The Sunday Mercury editorial weighed my tasks of public service, private employment and personal life. I will not engage in a public discourse on the latter, two but we can talk one on one if you wish.
In short, I challenge your readers to consider the tasks they engage in daily. Does one question the sincerity of a teacher who oversees many groups, a waitress who works three jobs, a fireman who serves on several advisory boards? I hope no one ever questions a soldier who often works 20-hour days, 7 days a week, for multiple deployments and still manages to be a husband and a father.
The question should not be why our elected leaders are doing so much, it should be why they are not doing more.
In this era of obstructionism, Washington, D.C. car-eer politicians spend a lot of time doing nothing. Growing up, my generation was scolded as lackadaisical; now we’re questioned if we are doing too much. In April, I took an oath before the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Education to uphold the Constitution. I do take this seriously and will continue to listen to the patrons of our district with an open mind and will strive to ensure that my votes will always be made through the lens of doing what is best and responsible for our students without forgetting the responsibility I have to the voters and taxpayers of U.S.D. 383. This is an unpaid part-time position that I sought out and campaigned for. The vision of our district is set by its board. and I find that charge exciting, challenging and rewarding. Educa-tion is the foundation of a community.
Last November, a need be-came apparent. While Repub-licans comprised 46 percent of registered Kansans, and Demo-crats counted for about 24 percent, nearly 30 percent of Kansans were choosing to register neither as Republican or Democrat but as Unaffiliated.
A moderate-minded individual or someone who believes in good governance often sees a problem with extremist ideologues winning brutal primary campaigns in August only to be unopposed (by most measures nearly unopposed) in November. Outside of Manhattan, Kansans are telling me that they are being presented with false choices come election time. If they are unaffiliated, they simply were not able to vote because the only choice was a Republican primary and those elections are closed to anyone who doesn’t register with that party.
After the 2008 presidential election, political scientists across the country gave a lot of credit for the Obama victory to data-driven campaigning and grassroots movements that helped push up voter turnout. What many people have not talked about is how Sam Brownback used those same tactics to get himself elected in 2010.
Moreover, in 2012, as governor, Brownback made the unprecedented move of picking one type of Republican over another type of Republican in primaries all over the state. He doubled down by injecting his formula and his teams into Senate and House races to eliminate potential “moderate” voices in the Legislature.
Brownback and his associates created literature and mass mailings that painted the word “moderate” as bad and “conservative” as good, even though both were Republican. Over the next year, I challenge everyone to throw out these labels and examine the facts. Many of those so-called “conservatives” are doing nothing to conserve the constitutional obligation to fund a suitable education for all children in Kansas. Furthermore, the governor seems to be doing his best to pack the courts, allegedly to aid in the elimination of the constitutional re-quirement to fund education in Kansas for all children.
A few weeks ago, Gov. Brown-back signed a two-year budget that had been passed by the Legislature. It’s easy to see that if the Legislature were to have simply funded education at the rate of inflation since 2002, our school district would be receiving more than $10 million in each of the next two years (with consideration given to the recession). Instead we are starting off our budget discussions contemplating how to navigate a $1.2 million hurdle for the next fiscal year. Instead of using our local tax dollars to invest in programs of excellence, we are using every dollar to fill holes left by the state’s underfunding of the district. This is not new, and it is rapidly becoming the norm. The state is skirting its constitutional obligation to fully fund a suitable education. It seems to be many lawmakers’ hope that you will not notice.
Over the next month, I encourage business leaders, property owners, parents, students and teachers to come to our board meetings. The next few meetings are crucial in developing a budget, and real discussions need to happen with the community about the position we are in due to underfunding by the state.
Aaron Estabrook, 3317 Wood-duck Way, is a member of the Manhattan-Ogden Board of Edu-cation