Danedri Herbert — More funding, less choice is a bitter pill for voucher advocates

12/03/2013 4:13 PM

12/03/2013 4:13 PM

There’s a cure for what ails our public schools, but Kansas legislators aren’t likely to swallow the medicine.

The longer kids are in public schools, the dumber they get. Common Core won’t solve that problem. Neither will dumping more money into the schools, as a Schools for Fair Funding lawsuit against the state is likely to do.

A U. S. Department of Education study revealed that American students decline over time in reading, math and science when compared to their international peers. For example, American fourth-graders score in the 92nd percentile in science internationally, but by the time American students reach the 12th grade, they score in the 29th percentile internationally.

Locally, fewer students are proficient on federal tests this year than they were last year.

With few exceptions, Johnson County students had lower test scores in math, reading and science. De Soto students improved in reading. Blue Valley and Gardner-Edgerton saw slightly higher scores in science, and every district in the county had lower scores in math.

Meanwhile, a coalition of public school districts, Schools for Fair Funding, is demanding even more funding for schools through the courts. The Supreme Court will likely decide the case early next year. If they decide in favor of the school districts, the Kansas Legislature will be required to direct $500 million more each year to public schools.

The influx of cash may coincide with an exodus of Kansas public school students. Home schooling ranks are likely to swell as controversial Common Core standards, or Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, are fully implemented next year.

The standards seek to integrate skills learned in one area, like history, with other educational areas, like English. Common Core, with its emphasis in integrating skills in multiple disciplines, seems to aid curriculum writers in indoctrinating students with liberal ideas.

Take, for example, one English worksheet. The worksheet predates Common Core, but presents a fine example of how a curriculum can be written to influence students in areas beyond reading, writing and arithmetic.

The “Hold the Head High” worksheet asks fifth-grade students to create shorter sentences by replacing underlined words with possessive noun phrases. Some of the correct answers include, “(The President) makes sure the country’s laws are fair,” “Government officials’ commands must be obeyed by all,” and “An individual’s wants are less important than the nation’s well-being as a whole.”

Creeped out yet? By the way, the president’s job has nothing to do with making sure the country’s laws are fair. That’s the role of the judicial branch.

No matter the standards, textbook writers can add their politics to the materials. Common Core standards exacerbate a problem that existed previously.

Under a voucher system, parents would have an added incentive to examine what standards are set in individual schools and what curriculum is adopted. School choice would be a win for kids, educators and parents.

For many low- and middle-class parents, their children and pocket books are hostages to a public school system that sometimes teaches values in direct opposition to their own. A system that allows for school choice would accommodate all Kansans — not just those who think the government is the end-all, be-all of human civilization. Sadly, Kansas legislators aren’t likely to take up the cause.

Rep. Amanda Grosserode believes all educational options should be on the table for all families. The Lenexa Republican is a former teacher who home schools her children — primarily, because her husband’s late work schedule coupled with tradition school hours meant limited family time.

Grosserode said there’s little interest in legislation that would allow parents to direct their tax dollars to the school of their choice.

“I don’t think a school choice bill has any chance of passing,” she said. “I can almost guarantee you we won’t pass anything.”

Previous voucher bills have been killed in committee or died on the floor. Grosserode said that’s unlikely to change in 2014, despite an impressive conservative majority in the Kansas Legislature and a conservative Governor.

Legislators from western Kansas don’t see a value in school vouchers for their constituency, because there aren’t many private schools out west.

“There are people who firmly believe in (school choice), but even when you get conservatives in there, school choice isn’t an issue they are likely to champion or even vote for,” Grosserode said.

That’s a bitter pill school choice advocates will have to swallow.

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