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Kansas tried an old-fashioned economic experiment — and its schools suffered.

Kansas has been the site of a massive live experiment — and we can learn a lot from its results, especially in Trump's America.

Kansas tried an old-fashioned economic experiment — and its schools suffered.
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Civic Ventures

In 2010, Sam Brownback became the governor of Kansas with the goal of creating a conservative utopia out of Kansas.

The state would become the grand example of how to create prosperity and opportunity through ultra conservative principles, and there was one way Governor Brownback was going to get it there: a trickle-down economy.

Through tax cuts, money would trickle down to the middle and lower classes, creating jobs and expanding business. So, in 2012, Brownback cut income taxes, largely benefiting the wealthiest Kansans, and eliminated taxes entirely for the owners of 330,000 businesses and farms.


It would be "a shot of adrenaline into the heart of the Kansas economy," he wrote in an op-ed.

Only it wasn't.

Gov. Sam Brownback. Image via Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

It's been four years since Kansas' economic experiment began. The state is financially unrecognizable.

By the end of 2015, Kansas had dropped to 39th in the country for job growth. The state has been downgraded in its credit rating. And researchers currently project budget shortfalls in the state totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. The tax cuts that were supposed to jumpstart the economy and create jobs have actually done the opposite.

To help close the widening deficit gap, Brownback has dipped into the funding pool of public services and programs. Over and over again.

Health care, Medicaid, infrastructure, mental health services, and welfare have all been severely hit.

And one of the places where you can see the most impact of these funding cuts? In the classroom.

Since 2009, classrooms have gained more than 19,000 students, with 665 fewer teachers. Crowded classrooms mean full-time teachers are no longer able to give as much individual attention to their students, and yet the students keep pouring in.

The day begins at Plum Creek Elementary. Image via Travis Morisse/AP Photo/The Hutchinson News.

It's not any better for part-time educators either.

"Because of tight budgets, we hire most of our para-educators for five and three-quarter hours so we don't have to pay them health insurance," says Kim Schneweis, art teacher at Hays Middle School.

"These are adults working with our most vulnerable students, and they make less than $10,000 a year and aren't provided health insurance," she adds. "This is inhumane to the employees. They work very hard with students who need so much help.  This creates a revolving door.  Even though we have caring people who love working with these students, they cannot live on that little of pay."

Students in class at Haven High School. Image via Sandra J. Milbur/AP Photo/The Hutchinson News.

Then you have some school districts with no choice but to end their school year early because of lack of funding. At least eight school districts prematurely closed in 2015.

"It's crazy times," Mike Sanders, the superintendent of one the affected school districts, told Bloomberg: “The ideology in this tax experiment has gone too far. It’s almost as if they’re hell-bent on proving their point, no matter the damage it causes.”

Teachers are also fed up with it. Some are leaving their jobs for better teaching opportunities in neighboring states or are quitting education altogether.  In 2012-13, the average teaching salary was just $47,464, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, making Kansas one of the top 10 worst states for pay.

The number of teachers leaving the state nearly doubled in the last four years, reported the Lawrence Journal-World, and the neighboring state of Missouri has even placed billboards in Kansas to encourage teachers to teach there instead.

Spotted on I-70 near Lawrence, Kansas. Image via Orlin Wagner/AP Photo.

This teacher shortage has created many un-ideal situations, like when six school systems were allowed to hire unlicensed teachers to make up for it in 2015. And budget cuts have meant a big decrease to the fun parts of school: elective classes and extracurricular activities.

"The kids don’t disappear when we cut teaching positions," says Schneweis. "They still need a full schedule of classes, but we don’t have enough electives to put them in."

And they don't have enough funding for each student either. 96% of districts agreed that state aid per pupil was insufficient in 2015, and continuing to decline by the year. That sets up students to fall behind later in life.

A study from Northwestern University shows that increasing funding for every student leads to higher wages and a reduction in adult poverty. Slashing per-pupil resources, especially for at-risk students, only helps to keep the cycle of poverty alive.

A student works on a video for the yearbook. Image via Travis Morisse/AP Photo/The Hutchinson News.

This trickle-down economic experiment is jeopardizing the future of Kansas.

Neglecting the needs of teachers and students and creating barriers to a proper education is not creating a competitive workforce, let alone a "conservative utopia." Even the Supreme Court has said so.

This exchange would make a great caption contest. Image via John Milburn/AP Photo.

Luckily, Kansans are taking notice.

In the 2016 primary, a large number of legislators were voted out in lieu of more moderate ones who oppose the state's drastic economic approach. That's a start.

Brownback's experiment is a cautionary tale at what happens when you use large tax cuts for those already at the top to spark economic growth: It doesn't work.

And that's the thing about experiments: You're supposed to listen to the findings, even if they aren't the results you wanted. If you ignore the data and prioritize your personal beliefs instead, you have a real shot at hurting the people you were put in charge to help in your state — or if Trump gets his way, the entire country.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Wikiimages by Pixabay, Dr. Jacqueline Antonovich/Twitter

The 1776 Report isn't just bad, it's historically bad, in every way possible.

When journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones published her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project for The New York Times, some backlash was inevitable. Instead of telling the story of America's creation through the eyes of the colonial architects of our system of government, Hannah-Jones retold it through the eyes of the enslaved Africans who were forced to help build the nation without reaping the benefits of democracy. Though a couple of historical inaccuracies have had to be clarified and corrected, the 1619 Project is groundbreaking, in that it helps give voice to a history that has long been overlooked and underrepresented in our education system.

The 1776 Report, in turn, is a blaring call to return to the whitewashed curriculums that silence that voice.

In September of last year, President Trump blasted the 1619 Project, which he called "toxic propaganda" and "ideological poison" that "will destroy our country." He subsequently created a commission to tell the story of America's founding the way he wanted it told—in the form of a "patriotic education" with all of the dog whistles that that phrase entails.

Mission accomplished, sort of.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.