Shortcuts

Connect with us on Facebook!
Subscribe.
[Feeds & Readers]
Follow us on Twitter!

Make us your home page!
Authors, sign in!

« Nothing New | Main | Church, State, and Secular Rationale »


The Wichita Eagle and the Koch Brothers: A Cozy, Cuddly Love-Fest

By Diane Wahto
February 19, 2012

Wichita, Kansas--The Koch brothers. Wichita's gift to the right-wing 1%. Recently, just before the Feb. 18th Occupy Koch-Town demonstration, Wichita Eagle reporter Roy Wenzl did a long, front-page piece on the Kochs and the death threats they had received. These death threats, according to Charles Koch, came from left-wingers in response to their support of Scott Walker's attack on public employee unions and the Kochs' alleged ties to the Keystone Pipeline. Charles Koch had his say in the article, denying any monetary interest in Keystone, and said his support of Walker and other right-wing politicians was minimal.

Wenzl, a reporter who is known for writing in-depth human interest pieces, quoted Koch and Koch employees at length, He included only a few rebuttal comments from the Occupy Koch-Town demonstration leaders. Even though I'm not involved in either of the groups that organized the demonstration, the Sierra Club and Occupy Wichita, I know many of those people and I know their actions are open to the public. Their opposition to right-wing policies may be noisy, but it does not include violence or take the form of death threats. When I saw the picture in the local section of the Eagle, Tom James, a Wichita poet and musician, was pictured playing his guitar and leading the group in a song. It looked more like the peaceful anti-war marches that I'd participated in the '60s than a threatening demonstration.

The Eagle Koch piece arouses my hackles for a variety of reasons. Wenzl ignores the basic tenets of good journalism by not challenging what Charles Koch said about his ties to Keystone or to right-wing politicians. It would have taken only a short time to find several articles tying Koch Industries subsidiaries to profits they would gain from the Keystone Pipeline if it is allowed to go forward. One such article, a blog on The Guardian, points out the circuitous route by which the Kochs would profit from the pipeline.

Even worse, though, is the fact that the Eagle and other regional news outlets ignore the fact that the Kochs, through the Kansas Policy Institute, are doing their best to destroy public education and other public institutions in Kansas and around the country. As a retired public school teacher and community college instructor, I am most concerned about what the legislature is planning for public education.

Most worrisome is the tax cut scenario set out by Sam Brownback in his January State of the State address. In that address, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal,"The second-year governor urged the 2012 Legislature to lower the tax rate on the state's highest earners from 6.45 percent to 4.9 percent and drop the lowest tax bracket from 3.5 percent to 3 percent. His plan also 'eliminates individual state income tax on most small-business income.'"

It didn't take long for several people to compute that low income earners would pay more, percentage-wise, than the wealthy would pay. Also, people would have to give up income tax credits that now keep them from paying higher taxes in the state.

A tax cut of that magnitude might help the Kochs, but it would devastate the Kansas public school system. Never fear. Along comes Dave Trabert, president of the Koch-related Kansas Policy Institute, a think tank that provides information and testimony to Kansas legislators as well as those across the country. Trabert earned a degree in business administration from a place called West Liberty State College, now West Liberty University, in Virginia. As far as I can tell, he has never taught school. However, he is now considered an expert on public education.

Among his claims are that charter schools are more effective than public schools, that education doesn't cost money, and that classroom size doesn't make a difference in student learning or teaching effectiveness. If nothing else, his last claim tells me that he's never spent any time in a classroom.

Here is Trabert's formula for improving Kansas schools:

• There is no single, silver-bullet solution. Identify multiple solutions and adopt them all.

• Change or establish laws that empower local school boards to act in the best interests of students, not the adults in the system.

• Change or establish laws that empower parents to decide which educational opportunities are best for their children, rather than having government decide.

• Move forward with fierce urgency.(Ed Choice)

Trabert assumes that educators don't already know all this. He also assumes that these steps haven't been taken. At least in school districts in which there is enough money for magnet schools, parents are allowed to choose the best school atmosphere for their children. Of course, the subtext for Trabert's list of solutions is that parents get the tax money that now goes to public schools so they can send their children to private schools or privately funded charter schools. Trabert won't say that outright, but that's the message that those who want to destroy our public education system wants people to understand.

Even the experts disagree with him on charter schools. According to the CREDO study, the largest study of charter schools compared to public schools, there is little difference in effectiveness between either type of school. Further, what Trabert doesn't take into consideration is that many charter schools are run for profit by business people who aren't concerned about the effectiveness of student education.

Why would Trabert, and by extension, the Kochs, be interested in supporting charter schools over public schools? Apparently, they think charter schools are cheaper to run than public schools. Charter school teachers often are non-union, which means they don't make the salary and benefit demands that unionized public school teachers make. Also, teachers can be paid what an administrator thinks they're worth rather than a fair wage that all public school teachers make. What this adds up to is fewer taxes paid by the wealthy. It also means less effective education for students.

Right now, the Kansas legislature is debating turning KPERS into a 401(k) retirement benefit. Such a benefit would enrich those who play around on the stock market, but it would be an iffy proposition for teachers who may reach retirement age when the stock market is in a down cycle. This move would leave Kansas deeply in debt for the KPERS benefits now owed, and it would likely deprive future teachers of assured benefits.

If Trabert or the Kochs would spend a few weeks in a typical public school classroom, they might get an eye-opening education. They might see that education is indeed costly, that teachers often pay for classroom supplies out of their own underpaid pockets, and that teachers are trained professionals whose effectiveness cannot be measured by the one-dimensional testing that people like Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Dave Trabert think is an accurate measure of results.

Schools aren't factories. Students aren't parts on an assembly line. Teachers aren't assembly line workers. Teaching is an art, teaching is a calling, teaching is hard work. The work doesn't end when the students go home and it doesn't end in the summer.

It might be a stretch to say the Koch brothers are “buying Kansas,” as this commentary from Dirt and Seed claims. However, given the legislation we’ve seen so far in the Kansas State Legislature, it’s not too much of a stretch.


Comments (1)

Angelo Lopez Author Profile Page:

A good piece of research, Diane. I don't know much about this issue, but there have been many documentaries in the past few years advocating education reform. As you were once a teacher, I respect your opinions highly. My wife knows a few teachers, and they echo what you've been writing in your blogs.

With the Wichita Eagle not covering all perspectives in the Koch/Occupy Wichita conflict, it's good to have you and the other bloggers in the Kansas Free Press. In China, the Middle East and other countries, bloggers get harassed and arrested for exposing the corruption of governments and corporations. I have a feeling that your blogs and the blogs of the Kansas Free Press are influencing people on these important issues because people like Jonathan are doing what they can to undermine the blogs. Keep blogging and offering different perspectives. You offer a much needed dissent.

Post your own comment

(To create links here or for style, you may wish to use HTML tags in your comments)


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the links below, you are directly helping to support this community website:

Want to browse more blogs? Try our table of contents to find articles under specific topics or headings. Or you might find interesting entries by looking through the complete archives too. Stay around awhile. We're glad you're here.


Browse the Blogs!

You are here!

This page contains only one entry posted to Everyday Citizen on February 19, 2012 2:17 PM.

The blog post previous to it is titled "Nothing New"

The post that follows this one is titled "Church, State, and Secular Rationale"

Want to explore this site more?

Many more blog posts can be found on our Front Page or within our complete Archives.

Does a particular subject interest you?

You can easily search for blog posts under a specific topic by using our List of Categories.

Visit our friends!

Books You Might Like!

Notices & Policies

All of the Everyday Citizen authors are delighted you are here. We all hope that you come back often, leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

All of our contributing authors are credentialed by invitation only from the editor/publisher of EverydayCitizen.com. If you are visiting and are interested in writing here, please feel free to let us know.

For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. EverydayCitizen.com, The Everyday Citizen, everydaycitizens.com, and Everyday Citizen are trademarked names.

Each of the authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. Our authors also welcome and encourage readers to copy, reference or quote from the content of their blog postings, provided that the content reprints include obvious author or website attribution and/or links to their original postings, in accordance with this website's Creative Commons License.

© Copyright, 2007-2011, All rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by each the respective authors of each of their own individual blogs and works, and then by the editor and publisher for any otherwise unreserved and all other content. Our editor primarily reviews blogs for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual blog posts on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors.