Kansas Education Finance bill doesn’t add up

This editorial was originally printed in The Great Bend (Kans.) Tribune, April 8, 2014.

The Governor’s promise during the 2012 election campaign to provide funding for all-day kindergarten statewide is now set aside.  The legislature has the more pressing problem of finding a way to more equitably fund schools.  They’ve come up with ideas both parties could agree upon, but how they solve the problem at hand isn’t immediately apparent.
One important development, the elimination of tenure for K-12 teachers, is one such idea.  While it has been something conservatives have fought hard to win for years now, it’s unclear how this will help equitably fund schools.
And three years into the implementation of Common Core standards, the legislature is giving a flashing-red light to further progress.  No district will be allowed to complete implementation without the express consent of the legislature.
Compare this overhaul of the education system with any home-remodeling project.  Living with an incomplete bathroom or kitchen can only be borne for so long before you have to do something.  No matter what you do, it’s going to cost money.  So, again, how it helps to ensure equity in education is hard to determine.
Ditto that for providing property tax refunds to parents of private school students while paving the way for districts to levy higher property taxes to make up the difference in base state aid per pupil the state isn’t willing to pay.  By the way, these refunds are not available to foster parents or legal guardians.  Only parents of natural born or adoptive children qualify.
In addition, cutting funding to special education while creating a means for corporations to get tax rebates for funding scholarships geared towards moving special education students to private schools is a head scratcher too.
Meanwhile, money has been moved around, robbing Peter to pay Paul, from several departments and within the Department of Education.  If I’m not seeing the obvious solutions at hand, perhaps it’s because I’m not a graduate of Kansas public schools.  And since they didn’t have Common Core when I was a kid, there’s no telling how what I learned across the border in Colorado compares.
If the Governor signs the bill as is, the burden of whether it is implemented or not will rest with the courts.  Will they determine it is a workable plan to ensure equity for all students, all over the state?  Here in Kansas, we can only wait and see.

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