An Open Letter to Sam Brownback

Dear Governor Brownback,

Here’s the deal. I realize that the blame for the $400 Million deficit that Kansas is in can’t  be laid entirely upon your shoulders. I realize that the think-tank that you’ve surrounded yourself with, and that the senate and house have been a part of, somehow got the crazy, naive idea that the trickle-down system works, and y’all just rolled with it. And I truly think that with the way this furlough thing is landing, you’re FINALLY starting to question your original opinions on feeding the full and starving the hungry.

What I can’t understand is, how the HELL did it take you this long to see this (that is, if you really can see it)? Oh, and please stop pointing fingers at everyone else. The blame might not fully be on your shoulders, but when you chose to run for Governor–and then chose to run for Governor AGAIN–you entered an unspoken contract in which you, being the voice and head of Kansas state government and legislature, would also take responsibility for your actions, and the actions of those working beneath you. So, it might not be your fault, but it IS your fault. You signed it into legislature. So, yeah.

But more infuriating than what seems to be your honest, naive, stupidity and selfishness in wanting to use Kansas in what seems to be an economic and social experiment, is what seems to be your opinion on what is important and what isn’t. Both my parents are teachers in Kansas, and for as long as I have been alive, I have watched them work harder than anyone else I have ever known, and still strain to make sure that the bills were paid, food was on the table, a roof was over our heads, and that my brother and I were provided for. They are the most amazing people I have ever met, and they are damn good at their jobs. I know that both my parents have touched the lives of many students, helping them succeed, preparing them for their futures, and instilling a desire for learning. This is a very rare thing these days, with as much non-productive stimulation as kids can receive from video games and TV. My parents have been praised by their colleagues, and have received nothing but the highest recommendations from their administrators in every school that they have taught in. My parents are involved in their schools–My mother single-handedly instituted and manages an annual science fair for every grade in her school, and students prepare their projects all year long. My father holds an administrative degree and often stands in as assistant principal when other school administrators cannot be at school. My father also helped implement the school’s after-school PBD program, which helps students who fall behind in classes and grades catch up to their peers, and you can bet that he is there, helping those students after school hours are over, too. And probably most endearing, my father volunteers as a prom valet every year. Last spring, my father broke his leg, and even though he was in a wheelchair and couldn’t drive, he still showed up at Prom to wish his students a fun night.

My parents love their students and take a lot of pride in what they do. So you can imagine their sadness, and my heartbreak, when they are told that their work is essentially worthless. Why are they being told this? Because you, Governor Brownback, tell them that everyday that you allow budget cuts to continue for Kansas schools and education. Since you decided that a small percentage of Kansas’s tax dollars were worth more than funding our schools, you have caused salary freezes, supply cuts, and stricter regulations on paid teacher time, which does not mean that teachers are working less–it means that teachers are simply working more unpaid time.

You see, what you might not realize about working in education is that it isn’t like a normal 9-5 job. You don’t just go in to work, do your time, and then leave it in the classroom. Many teachers–even ones who work in states that actually care about education and paying their instructors–put in hundreds of hours outside of those they get paid, just prepping their classrooms and lesson plans, not to mention being a visible part of their students’ lives, so that their students feel supported. Many teachers also spend their own money suppling their classrooms, as–even on a regulated budget–schools do not typically have enough funding to cover every classroom purchase. Teachers do this out of love; love for their jobs and love for their students, because teaching isn’t a job, it’s a calling.

But when, for nearly five years, you continually “thank” them for their dedication by providing them less and less financial support, spirits begin to break. Educators who were once eager in their work are looking for ways out. My own parents, who have dedicated a combined 50+ years towards education, are at their breaking points. People are tired, and they can only carry the weight of your ignorance for so long.

And what’s really sad is what this means for our children. A whole generation has lost five years’ worth of quality education because their teachers’ hands have been tied, their wills broken, and their funding made nonexistent. And the cherry on top? The fact that schools closed early this year because of your budget cuts. Why has education been so unimportant to you? Do you hope that by dumbing down the masses, you might be able to continue on in an otherwise damned career? Frankly, I would like to know what idiot politician cut school funding while you were learning economics, because the damage is evident.

Though I can only speak directly for the education realm, I have no doubt that every other facet of this state that has felt your budget cuts has similar woes. No, I don’t think there is really anything you can do to make up for the idiocy that you’ve instilled trying to run this state for the last four and a half years. You can start trying, though, by eliminating the tax cuts that you’ve put in place for the last four and a half years. Just remember, you can’t change the damaged past.

For everyone reading this who isn’t Brownback (which is probably all of you) I can’t stress enough how important it is to be an educated voter and VOTE EVERY TIME. Please, for everyone’s sanity, VOTE VOTE VOTE, and educate yourself ahead of time.

Thank you, and please get your shit together, Brownback.

-A concerned ex-Kansas-resident (that’s right, I left because I couldn’t stand you), tlc

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