The idea of foreign interference on elections has been a hot-button issue in the United States since the 2016 election.
Though it may not be at the same scale as a foreign adversary like Russia meddling in a Presidential election, we are experiencing outside forces trying to influence an election right here in Emporia.
The culprit, in this case, is the Kansas Policy Institute. The “nonprofit” which has links to the Koch brothers — of course, they don’t advertise that — appears to be doing its best to convince voters to oppose a proposed bond for improvements at Emporia Public Schools. These upgrades range from 21st-century classrooms to student services to, perhaps most importantly, better security.
Here is where I should point out that Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert — who you will see making his case on this page — claims his organization “isn’t taking a position on what voters should do.” That’s what he wrote in a comment he posted on The Emporia Gazette’s website on Aug. 8, anyway.
The organization is, thus far, trying to portray itself as a nonpartisan group which is simply doing what the school district and the media won’t by getting all of the facts out to the voters. On the organization’s media arm, The Sentinel, website it states: “We hold government and mainstream media accountable for providing complete, accurate and unbiased information so that citizens can make their own informed decisions on matters of public policy.”
But, I ask each of you, if KPI is truly just looking out for Emporia’s taxpayers and doesn’t actually have a horse in the race, why is it spending all this time and money — including advertising in today’s paper — on what certainly looks and sounds to me like a “Vote No” campaign? What’s that old saying? Money talks.
So, one might ask, what stake does KPI hold in the USD 253 bond election? It’s a good question. After all, the organization is headquartered in Wichita and has a second office in Johnson County. I could speculate as to why KPI is suddenly taking such a keen interest in Emporia, but at the end of the day it just plain appears that the organization and its subsidiaries, such as The Sentinel, are actually anything but “unbiased.”
Browse the website and you’ll see they are also not “taking a position” on bond elections in Newton and Tongonoxie — two more places where one should ask why they’re getting involved in the first place.
The bottom line is, Kansas Policy Institute and, as such, The Sentinel, it seems is opposed to any taxes. One doesn’t have to spend a great deal of time on their respective websites to see that. And I get it. Nobody LIKES paying taxes, but they are a necessary evil when it comes to funding essential services that we rely on every day. I don’t like seeing more than a third of each paycheck taken out for taxes any more than the next person, but if my house catches fire, I’m sure glad I can count on the fire department to show up.
My point is, there are some things worth paying for, and I would argue our children’s education is one of them.
Emporians should know their facts when casting their ballot; it’s an important measure. Personally, I’m going to trust friends and neighbors in our community — those who will actually feel the effects of this election, no matter the outcome. That includes the school board we elected and entrusted to do what was right for our district. It includes the parents who have children in the district and the teachers whose livelihood depends on the success of our schools.
We, as a community, should not let an outside organization and its money — no matter who is providing the funding — that will not feel the impact of the election in any way, determine our future. Don’t let foreign interference influence how your tax money is spent.
News and Online Editor