The K-12 Student Success Committee met for a public input day today and allowed a few members of the public to weigh in on school finance.

You might wonder if the committee has any biases. Well, at the last meeting, they invited Dave Trabert of KPI to debate school finance with Mark Tallman of KASB. This week, they lined up a number of conferees giving the first conferee – anti-public education gadfly Walt Chappell – a full 45 minutes and then giving all other conferees only 10 minutes. This was by design. The printed agenda detailed how much time each conferee would get!

Chappell used his time to trash Kansas public schools as failing children and went on to suggest ways to save money – get rid of MTSS because it is useless, don’t enroll non-English speaking students (every other country requires language proficiency before a kid gets to school), and eliminate all athletic programs (go to club sports paid for by parents like other countries do).

He was followed by Kansas Tea Party leader Chris Brown who blasted school districts for building facilities and called upon the legislature to grant approval to individual projects before they could proceed.

Four superintendents (Mischel Miller, Vermillion; Justin Henry, Goddard; Richard Proffitt, Chanute, Destry Brown, Pittsburg) laid out the challenges school districts face in the 21st century while Principals Kim McCune (Douglass) and Thomas Barry (Leavenworth) talked about the challenges their teachers face every day and the ways they work to overcome those challenges. Every administrator did an excellent job of putting school finance in perspective for the committee.

Education advocates Mary Sinclair (Kansas PTA) and Devin Wilson (Game On) provided the parent’s perspective in the desire not just for adequate schools but for excellent schools for all children.

Topeka Resident Phillis Setchell asked that the committee enact school vouchers and require that all reading instruction be done through intensive phonics. She asserted that phonics is what made Ben Carson the great man he is today.

The Pastor of the God I AM House Church in Topeka spoke to the sources that were brought by conferees and announced that his source was superior to all other sources. His source needed vouchers and tax payments for homeschooling parents.

Trabert and Tallman were then called upon to answer any questions that were left hanging after the last committee meeting.

Rep. Ed Trimmer (D-Winfield) had 15 minutes on the agenda at his request. Trimmer announced that he simply had some issues that had not been addressed that he would like to have in the record and wanted the time to make his comments. When he was finished, there was a brief pause after which Chairman Highland asked Dave Trabert if he would like to rebut Trimmer.

This was unprecedented! When Committee members make comments, lobbyists are NEVER asked if they would like to rebut! Lobbyists are granted time for their testimony and questioned but once the hearing is over, that’s it. Trabert proceeded in this case to not just rebut but to enter into a lengthy debate with Trimmer. This was a debate that other committee Chairmen would have ended, calling it out of order but for some reason it was allowed to continue.

Once the debate ended, Chairman Highland announced that committee members were to email their suggestions and ideas to either him or Vice-Chairman Abrams. Highland and Abrams will then draft a report which will be reviewed and discussed at a meeting on January 5, 2016.