Anti-public school forces in Kansas won’t give up.
Last year, ultraconservative state lawmakers led by Gov. Sam Brownback rammed through a two-year, fixed block-grant funding system for K-12 school districts that didn’t account for property value declines, enrollment increases and other uncontrollable costs.
The change meant reduced state dollars for K-12 public schools, which led many school districts to make significant spending cuts and raise property taxes to make up the difference (nearly 4 mills in Garden City USD 457, for example).
The block-grant scheme is a mess, and understandably ruled unconstitutional.
It was yet another policy crafted by the Koch-supported American Legislative Exchange Council, which writes model legislation for corporate interests.
Among its “free market” strategies, ALEC devises legislation designed to shortchange public schools and transition support to private, for-profit education.
One such pursuit in the last legislative session created corporate tax breaks for private school scholarships. Ultraconservatives now want to expand the program.
The tax breaks serve to accomplish the same thing as school vouchers, which raise legitimate questions over the constitutionality of using taxpayer funds for private and parochial schools that aren’t subject to the same accountability as public schools.
Offering tax credits is a sly way to divert dollars that otherwise would go to state-funded programs.
Instead of fixating on privatization — such reform efforts have failed miserably in other states — Kansas lawmakers should address current K-12 funding woes.
Also dredged up this session was last year’s ALEC plan to prosecute teachers for using curriculum deemed “harmful” to students, even though schools already have effective policies in place to address rare instances of questionable material.
Amid such senseless undertakings, Kansas is supposed to somehow be competitive in attracting teachers.
Instead, ultraconservatives determined to cripple public schools are succeeding, and giving teachers already here cause to leave.
Parents and others who value education should tell their lawmakers to reject such nonsense in a state with a long, proud tradition of good K-12 teachers and schools.
Voters in this year’s elections also need to remove blind ALEC followers from the Legislature, and support candidates who understand the state should support, not hinder, public education’s vital mission.