WICHITA, Kansas—The American Federation of Teachers launched Thursday its national campaign to reclaim the promise of quality public services during a visit to Kansas, which, like too many other states, has slashed taxes for corporations and the wealthy while cutting and privatizing public services.
"We are fighting back against policies that are just plain bad for Americans and fighting forward with a vision for America in which we reclaim the promise of public services for strong communities," said AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson.
Johnson, along with Lisa Ochs, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, visited with state employees in Wichita, who told them of problems since the state slashed billions of dollars in tax revenue and privatized and cut services to the public, including inexperienced and/or inaccessible contractors and too few workers to meet the needs of the public, the result being their inability to provide the highest quality of services.
"We are seeing austerity budgets passed in state after state, cutting essential programs and services as well as the people who provide these services," Johnson said. "This is government on the cheap. This is not an approach to government that supports the common good."
The strength of our communities and our way of life depend on public services that work for all Americans, she said. The services are essential to improve neighborhoods, protect families and provide an environment for economic vitality. "Public services are under attack by those who demand and pursue austerity, polarization, privatization and deprofessionalization," Johnson said.
The AFT's campaign to reclaim the promise of high-quality public services is about fighting for first-rate public services that support communities and keep them safe, healthy and vibrant, and ensuring that communities' tax dollars are properly invested back into the community and the resources are used responsibly and safely. It also is about making sure that public employees are well-prepared and supported to provide their communities the quality services they deserve.
Ochs noted the unfairness of Kansas' funding policies, especially in light of the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling that state school spending is unconstitutionally inadequate. "While the state has provided generous tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy, state employees have not gotten a raise in eight years, kids are being denied a fully funded education, and officials are trying to pit state employees against educators for whatever bread crumbs exist," she said.
For more information on the national campaign, go to www.aft.org/promise.