What's Important... What's Urgent
by KNEA President Blake West
Back in 1989 Stephen Covey proposed a time management tool that outlined two criteria for prioritizing what actions we take. Some things, he explained, are urgent – the form that is due by the end of school. Some actions may not be urgent, but they certainly are important – taking time for reflection on our values, for instance.
In the spirit of “important” (maybe urgent, too), I feel compelled to share thoughts on a personal level, and I hope each of you will take it personally.
First, it is profoundly important that you know what an important person you are. I look with humble admiration at the lives and work of my KNEA colleagues in each and every local, school, college, etc. that I visit. You are to be commended for choosing the noble profession of education, dedicating your lives to helping our students, supporting your colleagues, and making our communities better.
Whether you teach or are involved in one of the many other crucial jobs to keep public education working, this is often a thankless profession. But Kansas is better, your students are blessed, and our association is strengthened by your choices – to be a professional educator and to make KNEA part of your professionalism.
There may never have been such a challenging time for many – economic circumstances have put our members at risk, family members and close friends may be among those who have lost a job or been cut back on their work. And to those who may have lost a loved one or dear friend this past year, the holiday season is a bittersweet time when we remember those lives with both joy and sadness.
For me, my colleagues from my school, and now from across KNEA, have truly been family. I find strength in difficult times from so many of you that have come to mean so much in my life. We may have united in an organization by paying dues, providing services and sharing a vision. But now, more than ever, we must be united on a deeper level. These times call on us to watch out for each other, to extend a hand of support and for many of us, this is a time to hold each other up in prayer.
I trust that your strength is renewed and your heart is encouraged with the confidence that our KNEA family CAN provide support to each other and that, if we unite our efforts more than ever before, we CAN make a difference in the very future of public education in Kansas.
That brings me to something that is definitely “urgent” (and also extremely important).
Governor Parkinson announced additional cuts to public education, both k-12 and higher education. The economy has contributed to the state’s shortfall. But the bigger problem has been over a decade of continuous tax cuts that have crippled the state’s ability to provide essential services to its citizens. It seems unimaginable, but in the face of shortfalls last year, the legislature made even additional tax cuts.
KNEA is sending a message: “You're in a hole, stop digging!”
For many years (and in this edition of Issues), KNEA outlined problems with the Kansas tax system. For example, Kansans in the lowest 20% income bracket pay almost double the percentage of their income in state taxes as the top 1%. A legislative post-audit study showed that many corporate tax breaks have absolutely no positive impact on the Kansas economy and yet we continue to give those breaks without any accountability.
It’s time to send a message – Stop the tax cuts. Roll back the most unwise tax cuts to get our current revenue needs in order. Establish a top level task force to analyze our system and recommend a coherent and systemic overhaul.
Put in place a tax system that is fair to individuals, recognizes ability to pay, keeps the legislature accountable for tax breaks (when given), and generates the revenue to support services that grow our economy: public education and quality of life.
Legislators MUST hear about the devastating effects of cuts already enacted and any further cuts they propose in the upcoming session. KNEA will work with local leaders and in electronic messages to all members to ensure the broadest grass roots involvement.
We'll provide tools (Under the Dome, our website to contact legislators, and InsideKNEA members-only professional network site) to facilitate your voice.
OUR voice, in a unison chorus of 25,000 members, must be heard to ensure that our communities understand the impact of deep education cuts – the impact on the opportunities and future of our children.
Legislators must hear this message from us (as both citizens and as educators) AND from the parents and communities they were elected to serve.
The message is clear. In these difficult times, our support for each other and our united effort has never been more crucial.
As we approach the holidays, I hope that each of you will take time to renew your spirits, enjoy family and friends… and return in 2010 with a deeper commitment to stay connected and be more engaged than ever before in the noble cause of public education – from the classroom to the statehouse.
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