Public education illustrates special interest politics

One of the problems with government today is the proliferation of special interest groups, and then how issues are framed according to the needs of these special interest groups.

You might think that public education would fall outside the wrangling of special interest groups. After all, it’s “for the kids,” as we’re reminded. But the public schools and their lobby are one of the fiercest special interest groups.

Even conservatives fall into this trap and may ask “what’s in it for me?” or “what is my relationship to this issue?” Here’s an example.

On a recent episode of the KPTS television public affairs program Ask Your Legislator, a Kansas Representative, a conservative Republican, introduced his answer to a question about Kansas education funding this way:

“I share the gentleman’s concern about public education since my wife is a teacher. I have no children in public schools at this time because they have all grown and left the public schools.”

Why did he feel it was necessary to introduce his remarks this way? Is he saying that because his wife works for the public schools, he has an interest in their funding? That’s characteristic of special interests and their supporters.

Or, since he has no children that attend public schools, he is less interested in their funding? Again, evidence of special interests at work.

This Kansas House Member has a very good ranking from the Kansas Taxpayers Network, so he has proven conservative fiscal credentials. So I hate to pick on him.

But this serves to illustrate how entrenched special interest politics are. We don’t even recognize it.

3 Comments

  • I watched the broadcast and understand your point. However, I think the preface to his comments was simply made to defend himself from the ultra-combative pro-education lobby that will typically demonize any legislator mentioning the word “cut” regardless of the fact that they represent over 60% of the overall budget. I think noting his wife is a teacher was simply a way of signifying that he cares about schools and doesn’t “salivate” at the thought of cutting educational funding as some Democrats have already accused fiscal conservatives of in this legislative session.

  • I think you’re probably correct. Maybe I should destroy this post.

    On the other hand, your assessment that he has to defend his remarks gives us insight.

  • Agreed. I don’t think anyone could (or would) argue that special interests don’t play a role in the process because quite frankly, they do.

    I would simply choose another instance to illustrate the point as I believe [this House member] has consistently remained a pretty vocal advocate for common sense and limited government principles.

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