I feel compelled to comment on the education funding bill that passed the House late Sunday night. A newsletter addressing a wider range of topics will follow next month after adjournment of the wrap-up session.
Last month, our State Supreme Court issued the long awaited opinion regarding the constitutionally required funding of public education. As I expected, the Court ruled the funding level had not been met and directed the legislature to comply.
The Speaker of the House immediately assigned the task to the House Appropriations Committee and not the Education Committee because it was clearly an appropriations issue. However, when a proposed bill emerged from Committee, it had funding provisions plus over twenty controversial education policy provisions. The policies were pet projects of a few legislators. The Speaker was not pleased and neither was I and my like-thinking colleagues. It was clear the bill was doomed.
Upon a second attempt, the Appropriations Committee, now under a new Chairman, proposed a funding bill with three major policy provisions: elimination of practically all due process for teachers facings termination or non-renewed contracts, tax credits up to ten million dollars for corporations who pay scholarships in private schools, and a property tax rebate for parents of certain low income at risk students. This bill came to the House for a vote and was defeated by a vote of more than two to one.
The House then waited through the weekend (along with several hundred public school teachers) for a third attempt. We received it late Sunday evening. The only principle change was the policy provision for property tax relief for certain at risk students was eliminated. I believe this was a disingenuous token effort at compromise. I also believed the funding provisions would satisfy the Court and benefit the schools. However, I continue to have strong objection to the remaining two policy provisions: loss of due process and tax credits for private school scholarships. It needed 63 votes to pass the House. The vote was 63-57. I voted against the bill.
The Kansas Constitution clearly charges the legislature to provide funding for PUBLIC education. We do not have a duty, nor should be financially support private schools. The Constitution also states “No religious sect or sects shall control any part of the public educational funds.” I firmly believe that public funds must be dedicated exclusively to public education.
Taking care of public education means taking care of public school teachers. I don’t understand the two-sided rhetoric of those legislators claiming to be “pro-education” while taking pot shots at teachers at every opportunity.
I like the funding provisions of this bill and wish the Appropriations Committee would have produced a “clean” appropriations only bill. The policy changes should have been addressed and fully vetted in the Education Committee.
I voted NO because: 1) teachers lost due process, 2) tax credits for financing private schools, and 3) the legislative procedure used to change public school policy.