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Absurdity: Corporal Punishment Edition

Earlier this week, Kansas State Representative Gail Finney introduced an appalling bill that would relax the limitations on spanking by parents, caregivers, and school officials across the state of Kansas.* This bill [PDF] would define corporal punishment as “up to 10 forceful applications in succession of a bare, open-hand palm against the clothed buttocks of a child,” and if you hit hard enough to leave redness or bruising – this law lets you know that’s okay.

For two years I taught in a rural school in Louisiana, so this hits really close to home. When I first showed up I knew that corporal punishment was legal – schools still have the authority to use physical discipline methods in 19 states – but I had no idea how frequently I would witness teachers and administrators physically discipline students. According to a study [PDF] conducted by the Louisiana Department of Education, 11,520 instances of corporal punishment occurred in 43 districts in a single school year (districts in Louisiana can choose if they allow corporal punishment on an individual basis, and for most the chosen form of punishment is paddling with a wooden board).

I’m not an expert on corporal punishment, but from my experience I can say that there are 4 major reasons corporal punishment is just an all-around bad idea… Read more »

Dear Governor: Slashing Income Taxes Hurts the Neediest Kansans

Kansas governor Sam Brownback wants to eliminate the state income tax. Yes, you read that correctly. The governor wants to join the small list of states that have chosen to eliminate a crucial revenue stream. In 2012, Governor Brownback sharply cut income tax rates to the tune of $850 million dollars in lost revenue for the coming fiscal year. Amid those big tax cuts that primarily benefit high-earners, he found time to eliminate tax provisions that benefit low-income Kansans, including a refund of sales tax paid on food and a state tax credit for child and dependent care expenses.

Consider these numbers: The poorest 20 percent of Kansans will spend, on average, an additional $148 per year on taxes because of the repeal of tax provisions aimed at low-income people. This is a significant blow to women and female-headed families in Kansas,  13.8 percent and 40.9 percent of whom live in poverty. Meanwhile, the richest one percent of Kansans will save an average of $21,087 per year on their state income taxes. As one Kansas state legislator told the New York Times, this tax package is “Robin Hood in reverse.” Read more »