BPW/Kansas  -  Oral Report

Sunday, October 5, 2003

Legislative Chair 2002-03

 

I want to first thank members who have sent information about legislative issues. Several items have been forwarded to the national legislative committee for possible inclusion in the BPW/USA Hotline. Sarah Shattuck of BPW/Ashland, Peg Nichols of Greater Johnson County, and Jennifer Charron of Greater Wichita are due special thanks. Information sent includes:

§         3 out of 5 members of high school National Honor Societies today are girls.

§         Girls outnumber boys 124 to 100 in advanced placement courses.

§         Of U.S. high school seniors who took the SAT in 2000, 44 percent of the young women reported A averages.

§         Among men, 35 percent did.

§         And a count of valedictorians in the Philadelphia area last spring turned up 106 females and only 64 males.

When you put that together with the increasing (though still low) incidence of women in top and high corporate positions, and gains in higher education and religious institutions, the picture for women does look better for the future. One area where we are still lagging is in political success.

Run For a Good Starter Office

I recently wrote a 2004 lesson for Kansas Family & Community Education entitled “Grassroots Politics” about the Precinct Process. In both parties, there are frequently no candidates for the positions of Precinct Committeeman and Committeewoman. These are ideal positions to run for. Many in these positions do very little except what is VERY important and influential (i.e. attend and vote at the various levels of Precinct meetings). There is much latitude in what these positions MAY do. I encourage you to run for these positions or to encourage other women in your area to do so, and to invite your local office holders of these positions to speak to your local. It is important for us to know where they stand on issues.

 

MAINstream Coalition Discussions

I have been able to attend the MAINstream Coalition discussions on Immigrant Issues, Charter Schools, Charitable Choice, Affirmative Action, and The Patriot Act. My goal still is to type my notes for distribution to BPW members. Meanwhile, I would like very much to hear from you about your views, or what you see as the prevailing views or concerns in your community.

 

Fundamentals of Extremism

The next ‘MAINstream’ program will be a book signing, panel discussion, and group discussion about the book, “Fundamentals of Extremism,” by Kimberly Blaker. Panelists will be Tarris Rosell and David May, (professors at Central Baptist Theological Seminary), Val Defever, (former member, Kansas State Board of Education) representing K-12 education, and Betty Bashaw (psychologist) who works in the area of child abuse. Following this event, there will be another later discussion group about the book. This is an in-depth examination of the causes and characteristics of Christian fundamentalism and its effects on women, children, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, politics, education, and American society.

 

Education

It has been said by many that our greatest ‘product’ in Kansas is our educational product. High quality education keeps us viable as an economic entity. For a number of years, our schools have ranked very high among the states. Nevertheless, the Kansas (state) Chamber of Commerce has come out against a tax increase to help our schools, which are now declining in the proficiency rankings. Steve Rose, of Sun Publications in Johnson County, recently wrote an editorial 9/18 supporting Phill Kline’s plan with 7-8 proposals. You may be able to find that at http://www.sunpublications.com. John Vratil of Leawood and Kay O’Connor of Olathe agree with him. Reader comments are also included.

 

The Kansas Association of School Boards called a recent meeting of statewide educators that also included lobbyists, activists and other interested citizens. Several who attended said there was good representation from Johnson County, no one or few from Wichita, and fair attendance from Western Kansas. It was reported to me that, many of those attending from the western part of the state were opposed to higher taxes to help schools believing their schools are very good, and favoring a revised formula. Johnson County has already taken action to obtain new funds through a sales tax for schools. Those attending said they sense a profound anti-tax mood outstate. It would seem there are three choices:  Do nothing and rankings will probably continue to decline, redo the formula, or raise taxes.

 

“Leave No Child Behind” Act

All this in the face of the underfunded and overly-mandating, and punitive “Leave No Child Behind” Act. It is important that you all try to become informed about the pros and cons of funding for education. Even in our outstanding schools, under the new Act, a few children with disabilities, a population of children who are floundering due to language differences, and truancy problems can drag down a school so that it is rated failing.

 

Many feel the Bush administration is deliberately trying to sabotage our public school system to substitute it with vouchers. What impact would that have in communities where there are few or no alternatives? What will happen if many children leave the public schools, taking their funding with them? What will happen when private and charter schools can be selective in the students they accept? What does school choice mean? What would be the effect on class and racial segregation? Public schools have been one of the hallmarks of the United States. If the administration intends to implement the view that education should be handled at the local level, this is a good way to do it. HOWEVER, that means all of us at the local level MUST equip ourselves to know and do what is good for our local schools. And we must decide wisely how much that education should cost and how we will fund it.

 

October is Domestic Violence Month

 

Lobby Day—KCASDV—I will keep you posted as I receive new information. Plan now for Thurs. 2/12/04.