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In Kansas, Conservatives Attempt to Re-Label Public Schools

Free State High School in Lawrence, Kan., a public school. Kansas has for years been the stage for a messy school funding fight that has shaken the Legislature and reached the State Supreme Court.
Credit Mike Yoder / AP photo

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Among conservatives in Kansas, a new term has arisen for public schools over the past few years. Far-right Republicans in the state have begun referring to these institutions as “government schools,” reports The New York Times.

The new term rose to prominence in a state that has seen brutal struggles over public school funding in recent years. Kansas is also home to some of the staunchest rural conservatives in the country, Tea Partiers who hold the Federal government in deep suspicion—even contempt.

The intent of the new term is clear to many in the state: It’s an effort to “rebrand” public education, a stamp intended to create skepticism and mistrust of federally provided free education. By labeling it “government” education, the right hopes to convey the message that public schools are a form of government imposition, explains George Lakoff, a linguistics professor at the University of California. Lakoff traces the pejorative use of “government” back to the Reagan Administration.

Dave Trabert, the president of the Kansas Policy Institute, which advocates limited government, sees no problem with the label. “Technically, it’s accurate,” he said.