Outside Interest Groups
Some of our Kansas legislators are playing politics with public education. Public schools are under attack at the local AND national levels. The effort to strip our children of their rights to a public education through funding reduction and privatization is not exclusive to Kansas. The harm done to our Kansas' children has a LOT to do with individuals outside of our community using money from big corporations to influence our lawmakers. Our legislators have been heavily influenced by outside interest groups such as ALEC, which seeks to use their influence and funds to undermine the excellent, local public school system that has been the foundation of the Shawnee Mission community. Groups with ties to ALEC, such as Americans for Prosperity and Kansas Policy Institute, are spending a large amount of money attacking our pro-public education state legislators. Ask yourself: why are these secretive national groups so interested in harming Shawnee Mission public schools? At Education First Shawnee Mission, we want decisions about our public schools controlled by our community, not big money from outside Kansas.
The school funding formula has been an issue in the state legislature for several years now. As we were coming out of the Great Recession in 2014, funds to public schools were never restored to pre-recession levels. At this time, the Kansas Supreme Court also ruled that the school funding formula did not meet their standards for being both adequate and equitable. The courts put equalization funding levels back in place and left it to the state legislature to design a new formula for base state aid.
During these years in SMSD, the reserve fund has been depleted, class sizes have grown, programs have been cut, and staff have been reduced to deal with state budget austerity measures. While the Brownback Tax Experiment was repealed due in large part to the pro-public education Women's Caucus in 2019, we still have a huge financial hole to dig out of, after years of underfunding. With the addition of the COVID-19 crisis putting more pressure on our schools to deliver education to students using unique and innovative outlets, the importance of funding our schools has never been greater. We need to dig ourselves out of this funding hole and expect our legislators to grab a shovel.
In 2012, Governor Sam Brownback set Kansas on a path to eliminate the state income tax. By 2016, his tax plan resulted in nine rounds of budget cuts, two sales tax hikes, three credit rating downgrades, and record-high debt. In 2017, the Kansas Legislature made strides to reverse the irresponsible Brownback tax policy which caused so much harm to our state and severely negatively affected public education for Kansas children. In 2019, with the leadership of the Bipartisan Congressional Women's Caucus, the Brownback Tax Experiment was ended. However, we will not be at constitutional funding levels until 2023. Kansas cannot afford not to educate its children. We need to continue invest in them and invest in our state. We need new and unique ideas to update our tax structure to ensure the wealthiest are paying their fair share. We need state legislators who will continue this work.
Privatization and Private School Vouchers
We oppose privatization of our public schools and the use of vouchers for private schools. Private school vouchers do not improve educational outcomes for students, but they do drain resources from public schools - reducing the quality of education for our most vulnerable students. Private school vouchers increase social stratification, and private schools are not held to consistent standards like public schools. Additionally, 85% of private schools are religious, and the use of public funds to support religious education is prohibited by the Constitution. While vouchers are technically not allowed in Kansas, special interest groups and extremist lawmakers consistently look for loopholes to pass along taxpayer dollars to private institutions. We must do everything we can to ensure our public funds are not used for unregulated, ineffective private schools who are not accountable to those of us footing the bill.
Impartiality vs Propaganda
At Education First Shawnee Mission, we believe it’s important to stay well-informed regarding news that affects the students, parents, educators, staff and community of the Shawnee Mission School District. In a time where the terms “fake news” and “alternative facts” have risen in our collective vernacular, we must be diligent in researching news stories and information from all sources. We believe in the U.S. Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, which states: “Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.” We will encourage fact checking from multiple sources and will not share information with the community unless we believe it comes from a viable, trustworthy source. We expect the same from our elected officials. We will hold our elected officials accountable for providing fact-based news to the Shawnee Mission community and rejecting propaganda in all its forms.
Anti-Racism in Education
Education First Shawnee Mission has made a commitment to our community to be an anti-racist organization (read more here). We will continue to apply pressure to our leaders at the state level to update and amend policies that hurt our students, teachers, staff and families of color. We will continue to advocate against arming our teachers (which disproportionately puts Black and Brown children at risk). We will continue to push for Medicaid expansion. We will continue to hold our elected officials accountable when it comes to equitable funding in our public schools, ensuring those we endorse fully understand the difference between equity and equality. We will include questions during our candidate endorsement process that focus on anti-racist issues and insist that candidates answer these questions fully in order to be considered for our endorsement.
Discrimination in Education
As education advocates, we believe it is important to stand against discrimination of any kind in public education. This includes discrimination based on gender identity, sexuality, age, disability, national origin, race, or religion. We will continue to hold our leaders accountable and advocate for leadership at the state level that is non-discriminatory and values all Kansas kids, teachers, parents and communities.