Monday, February 9, 2015

Don't Mess with Kansas... ELECTIONS!

“A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that nationwide, 64 percent of respondents wanted more local government influence on schools, while only 24 percent said there should be less.”

For a student at the University of Kansas, being from Hutchinson was considered being from “western Kansas,” or as we referred to it “God’s country.” I got closer to learning the truth about the westermost meridians when I taught government and history at Bazine Jr.-Sr. High School. But it wasn’t until I moved to Leoti as superintendent that I really knew how far west Kansas goes. At the time, Leoti had the westernmost Kansas stoplight on Highway 96.

Teaching government and history, I thought I knew something about politics, but Leoti taught me the real meaning of Tip O’Neil’s famous statement that “all politics is local.” Being superintendent one sees the pride of community and begins to really understand the Kansas value of local control. I remember our Representative (a Democrat) and Senator (a Republican) talking to me about solving problems at the lowest level. It made sense then, and it continues to stick with me. State interference isn’t needed in local matters. Local control is a Kansas value.

Kansas has a history of rugged individualism. We stepped up and fought against slavery. We formed communities to help us be more efficacious in tough times. Those communities drew strength from hard-times in the depression, the dust bowl, WWII, and the divisive 60s. Every community did this in their own way. Every community set their own standards and solved problems in a unique manner. The state helps with resources, but making decision has always been best when done at the local level.

Our system of local governance is being challenged now by some members of the state legislature. Through SB 171 we see a move to change election times, methods, and structure. Some legislators want to add party politics to the local mix, move election dates, and change representative voting plans. State politicians want to meddle in local government.

Local officials consistently trump state and federal representatives when it comes to the trust and confidence of the general population. Surveys consistently say that the electorate supports their local officials, including those they send to Topeka and Washington, far more than the state's as a whole. A Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll reported that nationwide, 64 percent of respondents wanted more local government influence on schools, while only 24 percent said there should be less. An Ohio study done by the Fallon Research found that 65 percent of respondents said they had the most trust and confidence in their local school board, by far outpacing their governor, legislature, and state school superintendent combined.

Local control is a Kansas value. Unwarranted interference from the state level will create less focus on local issues and more on party positions and litmus tests. Take a minute and contact your legislator to tell them how you feel about state-imposed changes on your local governance structure.

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