Devin Wilson, SMAC Legislative Co-Chair
As a new parent, I started out avoiding my local Mill Creek Elementary PTA. I didn’t want to be volunteered to help with bake sales or what I thought of at the time as 'other nonsense' that could take an hour or two out of my already hectic school year. Then I started noticing some of the issues facing our schools and began to learn about the role PTA plays in our schools.
I started by emailing my principal and he explained that there was only so much he could do. He told me that a great deal of the authority is held by our state legislature. They set the budget and they make the rules. It began to dawn on me that school districts are expected to help every single child achieve academic success regardless of whether the principal and teachers have sufficient resources and time to do so. I couldn't understand how people ran for office, claiming to be “pro-education” and yet not support votes for public schools.
This is how my journey started. I finally understood the need. I started asking questions. These problems simply would not fix themselves. Teachers and parents needed to know what was going on in Topeka. Our elected officials needed to spend some time in our public schools.
I was curious how things really work in Topeka. I decided to find out. Last legislative session, 2014, I watched as several bills dealing with education were introduced, and sent to committee. People testifying in committee were parents, teachers, but more alarmingly, lobbyists from groups that don’t represent the best interests of Kansas public schools. Some of these lobbyists are well funded, and given direct access to legislators for weeks on end promoting bills that would have been detrimental to Kansas schools, and our school kids. In many cases, the committee seemed to have its mind made up, at the direction of the chair of the committee. A local representative told me that transparency and swift, loud public outcry appeared to be one of the few ways of helping true propublic education legislators stop destructive bills -- routinely disguised by misleading names.
I was there the weekend of April 5th and 6th, in the Statehouse galleries, with hundreds of teachers and other concerned citizens, to watch democracy in action. Democracy quickly turned to political strategies, as the bipartisan bill to address the recent Gannon Supreme Court decision to adequately fund Kansas Schools was thrown out by leadership. A last minute education funding plan (not even a bill) was completely rewritten, behind closed doors, by only a couple of hand-picked legislators. The facade of discussion bouncing from house to senate, and back, was maintained until leadership secured enough votes to force their agenda on Kansans. The resulting plan was passed at 9:15 pm, Sunday April 6th, while our senators and house representatives were operating on three hours sleep the night before. No bill was available to read until a week after the vote.
One solution to this gap between Kansans' values and those of the legislators elected by less than 15% of eligible voters, can be resolved simply by going to the polls. We also encourage you to find your senator or house representative, and start the lines of communication. You must be a voice for your kids or students. You must speak up to be heard.Silence is consent for what goes on, behind the curtain. And, the Wizards of Oz are supported by corporations and organizations who seek to privatize K-12 education.
Request a Presentation
...with SMAC Legislative Chair, Devin Wilson . Invite him to be a guest speaker at your local PTA meeting, Site council, or staff meeting.
Devin is SMAC Legislative Coordinator for 2018-2019. He was asked to share his personal insights and stories of what led him to his charge and involvement in PTA Legislative Advocacy.