Updated: Mar 7, 2022
The School Chooses Your Child. Your Property Values Plummet. Part I:
In deference to concerning world events, we’ve delayed posting about so-called “School Choice” bills currently being pushed through the Kansas Legislature. However, with KsLeg reconvening on Tuesday, we need our members’ immediate attention.
Today’s post covers voucher-like Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), with a call to email your Blue Valley legislators in opposition to Sub HB 2615.
First, our members know that Kansas taxpayers **already** pay for students to attend private, selective (often religious, sometimes unaccredited) schools in the state. The “Tax Credit Scholarship” voucher-like program was instituted in 2014, during the Brownback years. It was expanded in 2021 and continues to drain dollars away from the Kansas General Fund - dollars that would otherwise go to essential state services, including public schools.
Brownback’s “Tax Credit Scholarship” program requires NO accountability for where dollars wind up. NO mandated reporting of test results or academic outcomes of participating students. The program basically throws money into a black hole. Notably, it also functions as a profit-generating mechanism for third-party “Scholarship Granting Organizations,” including Renewanation, in Roanoke, VA, and ACE Scholarships, in Denver, CO. (Yes, you read that right: Virginia and Colorado.)
ESAs are the next scheme to expand voucher-type programs in Kansas - and open the door for even more profiteering off the backs of our kids. ESAs would allow parents to claim an amount equal to Base State Aid Per-Pupil - but instead of those dollars remaining in the public school, they could be used for private-school tuition or other educational costs - including unaccredited homeschooling.
Today, if a Kansas family chooses private school - AND IF the private school admits their child - the family is supposed to be responsible for tuition payment. Often, private schools offer scholarships to qualifying students, especially religiously-affiliated schools. Some families also qualify for Tax Credit Scholarships, thanks to Brownback & Co.
For now, the proposed ESA program (legislation titled: Sub HB 2615) would allow families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals, or designated by a school district to receive at-risk services, to participate. Just as we predicted the Tax-Credit Scholarship program would expand in scope over time, we expect the same for ESAs.
Will the educational outcomes of the ESA program be reported back to Kansas taxpayers? NO. Will private schools using ESA dollars be required to admit ANY student? NO. Will religious doctrine be taught at most, if not all, private schools receiving ESA dollars? YES. Will state services provided by the Kansas General Fund be additionally drained by the ESA program? YES.
State Treasurer Lynn Rogers has already gone on record to explain that an outside, private entity would be needed to administer the complexities of an ESA program in Kansas. This would **even further reduce** Kansas General Fund dollars. If this legislation passes, voters should take a hard look at the businesses and investors that stand to profit from it.
Ultimately, voucher-type schemes, including Tax-Credit Scholarships and ESAs, are not about kids at all. They are designed to divert public dollars to private entities, paving the way for For-Profit K-12 schools in Blue Valley, Kansas, and across America.
We know Blue Valley families are deeply concerned about class sizes (funding), retaining qualified teachers (funding), reductions in support staff, including the elimination of Library paraprofessionals (funding), and potential cuts to fine arts programs, sports, and activities (funding, funding, and funding). We know the value of a home in Blue Valley is directly tied to the quality (funding) of our schools here. We know that further reducing public education funding will have significant, negative impacts on the education our kids receive. Our members know it, too.
Look in the comments of this post for ways to contact your Blue Valley legislators today - opposing Sub HB 2615.
Read and follow the bill here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/hb2615/