••• Education •••

Maybe it’s time Kansas tells the feds they can keep their money and not “yield to blackmail.”

On May 13, every school district in the United States, received this 9-page edict from Uncle Sam, jointly issued by the Department of Education (ED) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). The letter issues “significant guidance” for making sure transgender students are allowed to use facilities consistent with the gender in which they identify, and in the process, usurps local control in dealing with the issue.

The feds decided to butt in when North Carolina passed a law requiring students to use the bathroom of their birth gender. The Washington bureaucrats didn’t take kindly to this and reacted in their typical heavy-handed way.

Please be clear that KPI’s position on the transgender issue is that it is a matter for local school boards to resolve as they see fit. Our concern is that schools do everything they can to reasonably and appropriately accommodate the needs of all students, keeping in mind Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ explanation of freedom and rights – “Your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins.”  In other words, the resolution to one person’s alleged grievance cannot impinge on the rights of others. Extremely sensitive and personal issues like transgender rights are best left attended at the local level. It is not a matter that can or should be mandated by bureaucrats a world removed from the consequences of their pronouncements.

The issue is already front and center in Kansas. At last week’s State Board of Education meeting, without taking official action, board members unanimously stated their opposition to this federal encroachment. I attended that meeting and listened to those board members who are former school administrators tell how they had handled this issue on a case-by-case basis and that it should unquestionably remain that way. (The video of the entire meeting can be accessed here.) . The following day, Governor Brownback took a stand, decrying the latest federal intrusion as “an unprecedented example of executive over-reach,” also calling it an “attempt to federalize local school board decisions by threatening legal action or denial of federal funding.”

This is but the latest in the federal government’s attempt to assume control of public education in the past decade and a half. It started with President Bush’s signature education legislation No Child Left Behind (NCLB), in which the federal government mandated assessments along with consequences for schools when not attaining unattainable goals. President Obama dovetailed on NCLB, throwing Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the mix. The Obama administration used a combination of carrots and sticks to “persuade” states to adopt the unpopular standards. Now the federal government is stepping out of the academic realm, this time threatening to yank federal funding for Title IX non-compliance.

Federal intrusion is felt down to the classroom level. I recall under NCLB how much time was taken away from teaching because of the focus on testing before, during and after the federally mandated assessments were given. The presence of Common Core, as I wrote recently in this column, among other things, forced us teachers to become curriculum writers, again at the expense of teaching. No doubt this latest meddling will impact the classroom in ways yet to be imagined. These are the realities when the feds decide to get involved.

Texas is one of many other states crying foul. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has declared Texas will not “yield to blackmail,” and gone as far to say they will “find a way” to replace as much federal money as possible.

His response raises a question worthy of investigation: What would the potential net fiscal impact be (revenue foregone less associated costs of compliance) if Kansas, in the name of maintaining local control, defied the Washington bureaucrats and spurned the Siren call of federal education dollars?

So, how much federal money actually comes to Kansas and what does is pay for? In a subsequent article, that question will be examined in depth.