With Governor Kelly’s signature today, Kansas kids will attend school next fall in fully funded classrooms according to the state constitution. But, in an era of stark partisanship, the majority-party leaders in the Kansas Legislature made sure that full funding came at a steep price.
It has become common practice for the majority party in the legislature to use “must-pass” legislation like the K-12 budget to bundle policies coveted most by extremists who would like to dismantle public education in Kansas. We can’t forget legislative leaders’ use of an education funding bill as an opportunity to strip the statutory due process rights from 44,000+ K-12 teachers in 2014. It was one of three policy provisions surreptitiously added to the bill in the dark of night and with no public hearing whatsoever. While 2014 saw just three policy provisions added, this year’s bill had nearly twenty provisions added.
Kansas NEA has repeatedly called for the legislature to stop holding constitutional funding hostage to the anti-public school agenda pushed by slick politicians year after year. Yet, this legislature chose to double down and cobble together a bill that included dozens of policies that could not pass muster in the regular legislative process. (A summary of the complete bill can be found here.)
While there is much lip service given to things like transparency, local control, public input, and what’s in the best interest of students, legislative leaders toss those principles aside like a heavy wool sweater on a hot spring day when it is necessary to advance their extreme partisan agenda. (Details of the most egregious policy provisions contained within this bill can be found here.)
Using full, constitutional funding for K-12 students and neighborhood schools as a Trojan horse enables politicians to say they support schools even as they’ve purposely hidden from public scrutiny policy pieces championed by dark-money funded out-of-state organizations. They know that policies like the open-borders provision would be wildly unpopular with voters if they discover that they will likely see a property tax increase to pay for students who jump district boundaries. Or, with the part-time enrollment provision, their student loses a spot on the basketball team or in the band because an out-of-district part-time student has been allowed to take it. They know that citizens would reject curriculum mandates where no educators were asked to weigh in or develop Kansas solutions for Kansas issues.
At the same time, those responsible for the policy hope that parents and voters won’t know that while Governor Kelly’s K-12 budget recommendations are a part of this bill, special education funding continues to be ignored. They want to take credit for constitutionally funding education – when, in fact, that credit belongs to Governor Kelly — but then shift the blame to everyone but themselves for the outcome of the bad policy provisions.
Kansas NEA supports Governor Kelly’s budget recommendations to fund K-12 public education in Kansas fully. However, we continue to reject the lack of transparency, the shirking of the traditional legislative process, the usurping of the constitutional authority of the state board of education, and the undercutting of local control. Apart from the vital funding our schools need, this is the worst kind of partisan scheming. While we have become familiar with these tactics, we are extremely disappointed that legislative leaders seem so comfortable playing politics at the expense of Kansas students.