Kansas Senate school bill deserves an ‘F’

04/04/2014 10:46 AM

04/05/2014 5:31 PM

OK, no more late-night meetings for the Kansas Senate. They get into too much trouble after dark.

Members approved an absolutely awful education bill in the wee hours of Friday morning.

How bad?

• Instead of the state fully meeting its constitutional obligation to equalize funding inequities among wealthier and poorer school districts, the Senate plan would force Kansas residents to choose between property tax relief and adequate school funding.

• It cuts funding for transportation, at-risk students and virtual education. Districts with larger numbers of needy students, like Kansas City, Kan., would take the hardest hit.

• It sets the stage for disruption with a provision barring school districts from spending money to carry out the Common Core curriculum without legislative approval. News flash, folks: Kansas school districts already are spending money to implement the Common Core. To stop now would throw educational programs wildly off kilter. And the Senate is overstepping with this provision; the state Board of Education makes decisions on curriculum.

• The bill also makes it easier to fire school teachers without administrative due process.

• And, at a time when Kansas needs every penny it can find to fund public education, the Senate bill offers tax breaks to families who homeschool their children or send them to private schools. Businesses that donate to scholarship funds for low-income students to attend private schools would receive tax breaks, too.

All in all, a disasterous job. Fortunately, the House is on a better track. So far, members there seem inclined to do the right thing and find money to correct the constitutional funding imbalance found by the Kansas Supreme Court, about $129 million. They seem to be avoiding the temptation to load up a bill with ideological baggage.

Let’s hope that common-sense approach prevails when the two chambers get together to reconcile differences in their bills.

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