Just a few short weeks ago, the State of Kansas Supreme Court ruled that education funding in Kansas failed to meet the constitutional requirements mandated on the legislative body.
The court also rejected the state's argument that the court had no authority to decide whether or not the Kansas Legislature had underfunded education.There were many facets to the case, including how we calculate student educational spending, what actually gets spent on a student, inflationary forces and how the state addresses these issues.
The Supreme Court set a July 1 deadline to give the Kansas Legislature an opportunity to respond.
Gov. Sam Brownback didn't immediately respond to the ruling, but plans to have a briefing on the decision later Friday.
The Shawnee School districts and parents filed the lawsuit in 2010. The 63 districts allege the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to education and that it had gone back on funding promises made in 2006.
This week, Kansas introduced KS-2773, the House Bill designed to help solve this issue for the state. When you're a state struggling to solve an education problem, who do you turn to?
This language is taken directly from “The Next Generation Charter Schools Act,” a piece of model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization known for promoting conservative legislation.Prepared to see what Kansas has in store for the students of the future?
The new House bill attempts to solve the equality problem and get a running start on the adequacy issue, but it also introduces several reforms to education in Kansas.
It would establish a “K-12 student performance and efficiency commission.”
It would boost aid to poor school districts by $129 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1, the amount the state Department of Education has estimated is necessary to reverse past cuts in that aid.Let's talk about what these changes are at heart. The legislation, here: http://www.kslegislature.org/...
But it also makes changes to the school finance formula and introduces several changes.
“If we’re going to spend that money, we’ve got to get some policy stuff. To me, that’s only logical,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, shortly after the bill was introduced.
Makes several significant changes. Let's talk first about the 'Student Improvement Commission"
New Sec. 2. (a) There is hereby established the K-12 studentYep, complete political appointees to determine educational standards, handpicked by a largely Republican legislative body. Nowhere in the text is there a review process, a standard of requirements for an at large appointment, nothing.
performance and efficiency commission. The commission shall study and
analyze current K-12 school district spending and make recommendations
to the Legislature regarding opportunities to make more efficient use of
taxpayer money. The commission shall particularly study and review the
(1) Opportunities for unified school districts to be organized and
operated in a cost-effective manner;
(2) variances in per-pupil expenditures among unified school districts
with comparable enrollment, demographics and outcomes on statewide
(3) opportunities for implementation of any recommendations made
by any efficiency task forces established by the governor prior to July 1,
(4) administrative functions that may be consolidated between unified
school districts; and
(5) expenditures that are not directly or sufficiently related to the goal
of providing each and every child with the capacities set forth in section 3,
and amendments thereto.
(b) The K-12 student performance and efficiency commission shall
be composed of nine voting members as follows:
(1) (A) Six at-large members appointed as follows: Two shall be
appointed by the president of the senate, one shall be appointed by the
minority leader of the senate, two shall be appointed by the speaker of the
house of representatives and one shall be appointed by the minority leader
of the house of representatives; and
(B) three at-large members appointed by the governor.
New Sec. 30. (a) The legislature hereby finds and declares theThose pesky barriers about funding religious schooling? Gone. Public money going to private entities running schools? Gone.
(1) The state of Kansas recognizes the establishment of public charter
schools as necessary to improving the opportunities of all families to
choose the public school that meets the needs of their children, and
believes that public charter schools serve a distinct purpose in supporting
innovations and best practices that can be adopted among all public
(2) The state of Kansas recognizes that there must be a variety of
institutions that can authorize the establishment of public charter schools,
and recognizes that multiple authorizing authorities contribute to the health
and growth of strong and innovative public charter schools.
(b) The legislature hereby finds and declares that the purpose of this
act is to do the following:
(1) Allow the creation of innovative public charter schools which
may operate independently of state laws and rules and regulations, other
than those specified in this act, deemed by the public charter school
authorizer to hinder its goals to achieve at the highest level possible
(2) establish that other entities, in addition to unified school district
school boards of education, may be authorized to approve and monitor
public charter schools;
(3) remove procedural and funding barriers to public charter school
(4) provide additional opportunities to address inequities in
educational opportunities for all students, including academic
achievement, drop-out rates and other measures of educational success for
students across all economic, racial, ethnic, geographic and other groups.
The Republicans make no bones about it..
“If we’re going to spend that money, we’ve got to get some policy stuff. To me, that’s only logical,” said House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, shortly after the bill was introduced.If we've got to fund education, then we're going to fund it our way. Kids have to pay a price, that's how it works.
But he also said that House and Senate leadership are on the same page when it comes to the policy changes. The most significant policy change included in the bill is the expansion of public charter schools. The bill states “Kansas recognizes the establishment of public charter schools as necessary to improving the opportunities of all families to choose the public school that meets the needs of their children.”Think about the key difference here. Currently, if you wish a charter school, a school board votes on the issue. Now, a state authorizing agency can decide your district should have one and.. wham. It does. Under the formula enacted in the legislation, it is possible - though unstated - that schools would be forced to convert from a public to a charter in order to satisfy the spending mechanisms in place.
This language is taken directly from “The Next Generation Charter Schools Act,” a piece of model legislation crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an organization known for promoting conservative legislation.
Charter schools are privately run and have more freedom to operate but still receive public funding. The bill would create “innovative public charter schools which may operate independently of state laws and rules and regulations … deemed by the public charter school authorizer to hinder its goals to achieve at the highest level possible.”
Currently local school boards can authorize charter schools, but the bill would establish that Kansas Independent Chartering Board, which would have the authority to authorize charter schools.
What the State Republicans (and ALEC) are doing really constitutes hostage taking, and Jim Ward (D-Wichita) sees it pretty clearly.
Rep. Jim Ward, D-Wichita, said in a phone call that expansion of charter schools is worth a discussion, but it is wrong for Republicans to tie that into a bill for the state’s public school funding, especially when the Legislature faces a strict July 1 deadline.As the legislation proposes, Charter schools in Kansas are to be considered free of any obligation to unions (page 46) of legislation as linked above, outside of government and labor reviews of policies, and will be governed by a completely different financing method.
“We should have started that (discussion) on day 1. But now when we’re under the deadline of the court to try and hold schools and children hostage for some radical changes in educational policy is wrong and it will continue to get us into litigation,” Ward said.
“I mean go through the whole series of these supposed reforms. They’re all very controversial and they haven’t been vetted with education folks, or with parents, or with stakeholders,” Ward said “You don’t do this in the last week trying to satisfy a constitutional requirement that you failed to do in the last four years.”
In other words: If we want schools in Kansas, and if our tax dollars are going to fund them, we want changes.. big ones. Like private companies to run our schools... or send your kid to private, religious schools.
The House GOP plan links the money to multiple policy changes. They include proposals designed to help parents who want to send their children to private schools and measures for encouraging the creation of new, state-funded charter schools, which have more freedom than typical public schools.http://www.edweek.org/...
House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said that if lawmakers are going to commit to spending so much new money, "We've got to get some policy stuff."
But the proposals in the bill designed to expand choices for parents in where they send their children to school have failed to pass the House or clear committee.
Those measures include tax credits for contributors to education scholarship funds that could help children attend private schools, a new income tax deduction for contributions for charter schools and a less restrictive law for setting up new charter schools.
That's right. In a state where we underfunded public schools this legislation gives a complete opt-out and tax credit to businesses and individuals who chose to go to private schools, as an offset for them leaving the district. These backdoor vouchers effectively increase pressure on local school districts. Since a backdoor voucher is a tax credit equivalent, though, school districts don't have to worry about low income students leaving.. the tax credit will pretty exclusively benefit those in higher income brackets, offsetting private education for their kids.
"It looks like it's some sort of retribution," said Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat. "You have to do this, or we won't give you money."Taken as a whole, the Kansas plan moves education into the hands of completely political appointees with no standard for appointment, increases the number of private schools, includes a poison pill in regards to funding that conflates all spending (including costs like fuel/etc.) with the math for calculating all student spending.
The state's relatively restrictive charter school law has been a sore point for some GOP conservatives, and the Department of Education says only 11 are operating across the state. Charter schools must be approved by both the local school board and the State Board of Education.
The House GOP plan would set up an independent board that could approve new charter schools, along with local school boards, public or private colleges and the Kansas Board of Regents, which oversees the higher education system. There would be no limit on the number of charter schools—an idea in model legislation from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.
ALEC has created an interesting legislative hurdle for Republicans. Republicans became fans of saying 'they haven't read the legislation!' 'They can't understand it, they don't know it!' As a reason why legislation is 'bad'. Now, in a Kansas legislature, we've had a session filled with bills that Republican house members had to admit they hadn't read.. at all. I'm wondering, if I ran to Topeka and interviewed Republicans supposedly backing this legislation exactly how familiar they are with the intricacies of this KS-2773. I'm willing to wager the vast majority haven't read it and don't understand it.
That's OK. Legislation like this helps make sure that students coming out of Kansas won't understand it either.