Today I felt like I was punched in the stomach when I read the news: the governor put on administrative leave the five employees of the Kansas Arts Commission until the end of the fiscal year, June 30, when they would be terminated (if this decision stands). No process. No notice. No way, and yet it’s happening.
Having worked with the people at KAC over my term as poet laureate (which I intend to continue until its completion in 2012, come storm or drought), I am stunned and saddened for them. How will they support their families? What will they do? I also grieve for the integrity of our state, one in which, without any due process or discussion and debate, state employees can be booted out. The funding issue cited seems odd, given that we’re talking about the paychecks for five people for six weeks, a portion of their pay comes from federal funding, and it’s not like these people are making Donald Trump-level salaries.
There is also the huge issue of what happens with arts programs currently in process, arts programs and events about to take place, and even more so, the arts in general in our beautiful and noble, despite the actions of the governor yesterday, state. The numbers are getting to be all-too-familiar to many of us: the Kansas Arts Commission received, for this fiscal year, a little less than $800,000 in state funding, which was matched 150% percent with $1.2 million from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Mid-America Arts Alliance. No KAC means a loss of more than 4,000 jobs and $153.5 million in art-generated revenue for our state.
So I ask fellow Kansans to stand up right now, pick up the phone or start an email, show up in a legislator’s office or write the governor, and say, “No, this is not how we live. This is not how we treat each other. This is not what we value,” Also say, “Yes, the arts matter for the economy, for our children and elders, for those living in the center and on the margins, for remembering the past and envisioning the future, and for being who we are with integrity, wisdom, compassion and imagination.”
I’m pasting here an email from Kansas Citizens for the Arts:
Reading the news yesterday that the Brownback administration gave notice that the Kansas Arts Commission staff is to be laid off – and that all communications are to come from his office only, is a disheartening blow to those of us who care about the arts and believe that elected officials should listen to the voices of their constituents. The budget could be a matter of days away from the Governor’s desk – including $689K for the KAC. This is a huge victory for which arts supporters and thoughtful legislators are entirely responsible.
It is URGENT that you tell the Governor that the arts cannot be silenced by executive order. These programs are too important in our communities to have them abolished.
or call his office at 785-296-3232 or 1-877-579-6757.