March 12, 2023

Clay Wirestone: ‘No future!’ If Rep. Kristey Williams has her way, there won’t be a next generation of Kansans

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Rep. Kristey Williams has been a leading voice pushing for privatization in Kansas schools. Clay Wirestone, opinion editor at Kansas Reflector, is concerned.

You might not imagine Rep. Kristey Williams, R-Augusta, as a punk rocker with a safety pin through her nose screaming: “No future!”

But that’s the ultimate effect of her proposals to radically reshape Kansas public education, directing state dollars to unregulated and unaccredited private schools. At a hearing Monday, the education budget committee chairwoman showed that Johnny Rotten has nothing on her for joyous expressions of nihilism. She and fellow Republican committee members appear committed to undermining the public education system that serves a half-million children — and razing the future of our state along the way.

I don’t know if Williams has ever windmilled a guitar or yowled into a microphone. She did, however, give proponents of the bill a full minute more to testify than opponents and angrily shut down colleagues who grappled with the enormity of her proposals.

“We’re not going to do these holy-moly-like statements,” Williams said, according to Kansas Reflector reporter Rachel Mipro. “This is not a time to grandstand.”

Indeed it wasn’t. If only someone had reminded the chairwoman.

Wirestone has also noticed where education is drifting in his state, and what is needed for tomorrow.

Good-paying jobs increasingly require technical and specialized training. Workers of the future will need to be thoroughly educated.

A handful of the unregulated, unaccredited institutions of the kind praised at Monday’s hearing may indeed offer that kind of training. Many will not. Without minimum and enforced standards, parents and children won’t be able to tell the difference. Their futures will suffer because legislators didn’t dedicate time and attention to the best system we have for achieving such aims: public schools.

We also live in an ever-more-secular world. Fewer people than ever before attend church or follow organized religion. According to research from Pew, nearly a third of Americans are religiously unaffiliated. Christians will account for less than half of the U.S. population within a few decades.

Yet private school advocates argue for public funding of religious institutions. They’ve found a receptive audience at the U.S. Supreme Court. Such schooling will do little to prepare children for the future, instead inculcating them with increasingly irrelevant dogma.

That secular world I just mentioned? It will be — indeed, it already is — defined by diversity.

That means folks of different genders, races, sexual orientation and beliefs. The latest U.S. Census data bears it out. Today’s students won’t enter workplaces full of people who look and think the way they do. They will have to adapt and empathize. They will have to understand other perspectives. Public schools, more than other modern institution, prepare young people for that reality.

Read the full editorial here. 

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