Kansas Arts Commission layoffs. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has dismissed all the employees of the Kansas Arts Commission. Earlier this year, the governor issued an order disbanding the commission, but the Senate reversed that order. The House had withheld funding for the commission, but recently reversed its position and added funding. The action by the governor, along with his line-item veto power, appears to end the life of the commission. … Government-funded arts supporters used a number of arguments and an aggressive lobbying campaign to make their case for funding. In the end, their arguments are like that of most others who plead for government funding — “the special pleading of selfish interests” that Henry Hazlitt identified. He also wrote of “… the persistent tendency of men to see only the immediate effects of a given policy, or its effects only on a special group, and to neglect to inquire what the long-run effects of that policy will be not only on that special group but on all groups. It is the fallacy of overlooking secondary consequences.” For more, see Kansas governor should veto arts commission funding, Arts supporters make case in Kansas Senate committee, and Arts funding in Kansas.
Sculpture spending in Wichita. Yesterday the Wichita City Council voted four to three to spend $350,000 on a large sculpture at WaterWalk in downtown Wichita. The fact that the sculpture will be paid for with tax increment financing funds was used as an argument for proceeding with the expense, as the money is already allocated and can’t be used outside the TIF district. But, there’s nothing that requires the money be spent. … Council Member Michael O’Donnell said it is an “audacious” amount of money at a time of financial difficulty, and added that “I think it could set the arts back instead of propelling it forward because people would see that as a waste of government money.” He suggested tabling the idea until the economy improves as a way to “highlight fiscal responsibility that this council needs to show.” … If the benefit of the sculpture to WaterWalk is large, it seems that the WaterWalk developers would have an incentive to build it on their own. Except, being a public-private partnership, it’s sort of hard to tell where public subsidy ends and private ownership begins. … Not mentioned was the fact that the sculpture site is nearly next door to where the Wichita city manager owns a residence, and whether this requires that the spending and surrounding deliberations be handled in a special way.
How much more can we soak the rich? Writes Jennifer Rubin: In the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing a significant tax story did not get much notice. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that “a new congressional study concludes that the percentage of U.S. households owing no federal income tax climbed to 51% for 2009.” After presenting some figures that illustrate the progressivity of the American income tax system, she concludes: “There are legitimate arguments about how progressive our tax system should be; at what level of taxation do we risk impeding economic growth and which goals we want to promote through the tax code (e.g. family economic stability, home ownership, investment)? But we should at least be clear on the facts and our starting point. We can’t solve the debt problem by grabbing more money from the rich. And we simply don’t have, as Obama asserts, a tax system that undertaxes the rich.”
School reform in Kansas, this year’s edition. From the Kansas Association of School Boards, on the major piece of school reform legislation this year: “HB 2191 passed 106-16. It will allow teachers to agree to extend their three-year probationary period by one or two additional years. The school board must provide a plan of assistance and give the teacher time to consider the special contract.” … Tinkering with the teacher tenure formula is all that has been accomplished this year regarding school reform. This is in a state that ranks very low among the states in policies relating to teacher effectiveness, according to the National Council on Teacher Quality.
Wichita teacher cuts. Speaking of policies that work against teacher effectiveness: USD 259, the Wichita public school district has announced that it will reduce the number of teachers next year. The district’s contract with the union requires that teachers be laid off in order of seniority, so that new teachers are let go first. If the district was able to lay off their least effective teachers first, the district could end up with a smaller, but more effective, teacher workforce. … It might seem like automatically retaining the most experienced teachers is a beneficial policy. But research tells us that longevity in the classroom is not related to teacher effectiveness. One study found results that are typical: “There appear to be important gains in teaching quality in the first year of experience and smaller gains over the next few career years. However, there is little evidence that improvements continue after the first three years.” … Identifying effective teachers is something that many school districts have trouble doing, to the point where it makes one wonder if they are really interested in knowing. Kansas, as a state, has poor policies on evaluating teacher effectiveness. … The work rules that prevent school districts from dismissing ineffective teachers first are courtesy of the teachers unions, and are another reason why these institutions are harmful to the children they purport to serve.
Real estate to be topic at Pachyderm, followed by tours. This Friday (May 13) the Wichita Pachyderm Club features Craig Burns and Glenn Edwards of Security 1st Title Company speaking on the topic “Real Estate Transactions, Ownership, Title, and Tales From the Trenches.” Following the event will be optional tours at the Sedgwick County Courthouse for presentations by Bill Meek, Register of Deeds from 2:00 pm to 2:25 pm, Kelly Arnold, County Clerk from 2:30 pm to 2:55 pm, and Linda Kizzire, County Treasurer from 3:00 pm to 3:30 pm. … The public is welcome and encouraged to attend Wichita Pachyderm meetings. For more information click on Wichita Pachyderm Club. … Upcoming speakers: On May 20, Rob Siedleckie, Secretary, Kansas Social Rehabilitation Services (SRS) on the topic “The SRS and Initiatives.” On May 27, Todd Tiahrt, Former 4th District Congressman on the topic “Outsourcing our National Security — How the Pentagon is Working Against Us”.
Immigration. From LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies: “Is it true that immigration raises the U.S. unemployment rate? Is it true that immigration affects U.S. income distribution? The conventional wisdom says that both of these things are true. However, economist Antony Davies says there is evidence to suggest that they are not. Looking at the data, there is no relationship between the rate of immigration and the unemployment rate, nor is there a relationship between the rate of immigration and income inequality. Further, there is evidence to suggest that immigrants actually create more American jobs.”