Outside Interest Groups
Some of our legislators are playing politics with our public education, and we want politics out of our schools. Public Education is under attack at the local AND national levels. The effort to strip our children of their public education through funding reduction and privatization is not exclusive to Kansas. The harm done to our children’s public education in Kansas has a LOT to do with people 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 big money 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 lots 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. Our current per pupil funding, adjusted for inflation, is at a level below where it was in the mid-1990’s. This is unacceptable. 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. Kansas cannot afford not to educate its children. We need to invest in them and invest in our state. 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.
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.