Battles over education in Kansas often seem to have more to do with money, power and politics than with trying to ensure students get a good education.

That could mean additional economic trouble for the state.

Education is the surest, most sustainable investment we can make in both children and in the state’s economic future. Nothing else — economic development zones, huge tax breaks or regulatory relief — comes with better odds.

But the education needs to be solid. Just funding public schools adequately isn’t enough. Funding schools and universities without also requiring standards and measuring results does little to ensure that students are well educated.

In Kansas, battles have been waged in the Legislature and the courts over how much money is enough for elementary and secondary schools. There also are arguments about whether the state should divert more funds to private schools and home schools.

There has been less discussion of standards for public schools. And the state has few requirements for private and home schools.

At the college level, funding cuts have left public universities struggling to maintain high-quality programs and to recruit the strong faculty and staff.

Kansas schools, at every level, are still good. But we risk erosion in our standings, not only with other states but with other countries, if we don’t keep the focus on sufficiently funded schools that are affordable, accessible and high quality.

There are many in Kansas who would like to change that by virtually abandoning the state’s public education system in favor of lower taxes. They want to favor private schools, charter schools and home schools by offering vouchers, bigger tax breaks and other funding mechanisms.

No doubt, there are outstanding private schools and charter schools. And some parents do an extraordinary job with home schools.

But the record also shows dismal performance by some private schools. Charter schools, in their relatively brief history, have a spotty record at best. For each one that has done well, several have performed poorly. The primary aim of many seems to be to enrich administrative companies and property owners. As for home schools, it’s impossible to assess quality because of insufficient metric and standards.

Public funding for alternatives to public schools needs to come with an assurance that the education offered is solid. Private schools, charter schools and home schools need to show that their students are making academic progress, and that they comply with the same rules as public schools regarding discrimination, accessibility, and discipline and expulsion.

In one respect, battles over education ignore one of the most important elements of a good education.

Just as studies show the importance of education in ensuring economic security, studies also make clear that parental involvement is the most important factor in determining academic success.

That doesn’t mean parents should helicopter their children. It does mean they should take an interest and set high expectations.

Those expectations should start with the kids and should extend to the schools.

A look back makes clear the huge role public education has played in the lives of Kansans.

Examples include Dwight Eisenhower, who graduated from Abilene’s public schools before attending West Point military academy.

And astronaut Steve Hawley, who graduated from Salina Central High School and the University of Kansas, and who is now on the faculty at KU.

And scientist Geraldine Richmond, who also grew up in central Kansas and attended Kansas State University before embarking on a career that has won her worldwide acclaim.

There are millions of others — including a majority of Kansas doctors, lawmakers, social workers, police officers, business owners and farmers — whose careers and lives were shaped in part by educations they attained at public schools.

It’s not that public schools are better than private, or that they are more deserving of support than another system that provides accessibility, affordability and high quality.

It is that Kansas public schools have shown what they can do, year after year, with kid after kid.

Take a look around, as kindergartners proudly climb on buses for the first time and as college freshman excitedly — and a little nervously — move into their dorms.

It’s the start of something big. For every one of those kids, and for the state of Kansas as well.

A native of Garden City, Julie Doll is a former journalist who has worked at newspapers in California, Indiana and New York, as well as across Kansas.