Public Education Policy Update
A school finance formula was finally passed by the Kansas Legislature during the 2019 session that met the Kansas Supreme Court’s satisfaction. There are other bills which affect this formula indirectly such as At Risk Funding and Vouchers for Public Education.
At Risk funding is currently in committee. An explanation of At Risk funding can be found here: kasb.org/nb1209-2/
The House K-12 Education Budget Committee will hear testimony for HB 2465, a bill that extends existing tax credits to organizations that provide scholarships for low income students to attend private schools.
This bill expands the eligibility from students who quality for free meals to students who quality for free or reduced price meals under the national student lunch program. It also expands eligibility from students who attend a public elementary school that is identified by the State Board of Education as one of the lowest 100 performing elementary schools to any school operated by a unified school district.
By giving tax credits to organizations and individuals for tuition to private schools the KS legislature is taking needed funds out of the state general fund which could be used for public education – at a time when the state is still desperately underfunding programs and catching up from the Brownback taxcuts.
The bill also allows these tax credits for students qualifying for reduced meals – a population that does is not considered for additional funds for public schools.
Public schools proudly educate ALL students, whereas private schools can refuse a student based on any criteria such as special needs. Tax money should not support discriminatory practices.
Kansas Democratic Platform Seeks to Support Public Education
Education is a core value of Kansans; therefore, investing in public education at all levels has been, and always will be, a top priority of Kansas Democrats. The success of our children and our communities depends on quality schools with educators who have successfully completed teacher education programs and are licensed through the Kansas Department of Education. A quality education depends on attracting and retaining quality teachers. The success of our economy depends on a well-educated and well-trained workforce.
Therefore, Kansas Democrats support full funding for public education as required by the Kansas Constitution; an end to tax breaks for corporations that fund scholarship money that goes to private schools; and reinstating due process for public school teachers.
Prosperity and job creation in the 21st century depend on funding quality public schools, vocational training, community colleges and universities in Kansas. There is no higher priority for our tax dollars, and there is no greater commitment for Kansas Democrats.
When Kansas Republicans passed Sam Brownback’s reckless tax plan in 2012, they blew a giant hole in the state budget. Ever since then, Republicans have tried to fix that hole by taking needed resources away from our school children. Budgets passed by our Republican Legislature and signed by Governors Brownback & Colyer mean Kansas schools currently receive 13% fewer dollars, adjusted for inflation, from the state than they did in 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. This low level of support violates our state Constitution, and the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that the school funding provided by our Republican legislature is inadequate to properly educate students.
This chronic underfunding is taking a toll on our schools. Kansas teachers’ salaries are among the lowest in the nation, leading to a shortage of almost 1,500 teachers at the start of the 2017-2018 school year. Statewide assessment scores have fallen dramatically, and now fewer than 40% of our students are rated as on track to be prepared for college or a career after they graduate from high school.
Democrats voted to end the failed Brownback/Kobach tax experiment and start to restore funding to public schools.