Outside Interest Groups
Some Kansas legislators are playing politics with public education. Public schools are under attack at the local AND national levels. Funding public education is the single largest state expense. Outside interest groups are interested in one thing: reducing their tax liability. If they can reduce the amount of money a state spends on public education, they pay lower corporate and personal income taxes.
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? It’s because they want an undeserved tax break. At Education First Shawnee Mission, we want decisions about our public schools controlled by our community, not big money from outside Kansas.
School funding has been in crisis for over a decade. Our friends at LoudLight.org created this *excellent* video to answer the question: How did we get here? It’s a fantastic watch – well worth 8 minutes of your day. Watch here.
Despite repeated rulings from the Kansas Supreme Court, extremist Kansas legislators continue to gut school funding by manipulating how base aid and local option budgets are calculated. In addition, Kansas law requires the legislature to fund 92% of Special Education excess costs. If the state does not provide special education funding to schools, that funding must be sourced from a school district’s operating budget. This has been a shell game between the KS legislature and local school districts since 2010.
At Education First Shawnee Mission, our priority is FULLY funding public schools through legitimate equity and adequacy calculations that include special education funding.
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.
Extremist Kansas legislators’ number one priority is to reduce their campaign donors’ tax liability. The best way to cut their taxes is to decrease the state’s primary budget responsibility: public education. They are more than willing to do this at the cost of our children’s education.
Education First stands behind responsible tax policies that fully fund the state’s education budget.
Privatization and Private School Vouchers
We oppose privatization of our public schools and the use of vouchers for private schools and homeschools. There are hundreds of studies showing that private school vouchers do not improve educational outcomes for any students, even at-risk students. Private school vouchers redirect tax-payer’s public funds to for-profit private institutions.
Private schools are not held to consistent standards like public schools. They pick and choose their students and have the option to reject any prospective student who may need special education and/or at-risk interventions.
School vouchers are technically not allowed in Kansas, therefore special interest groups and extremist lawmakers fund them through “scholarships.” Do not let this public relations ploy fool you – “scholarships” are in reality school vouchers.
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.
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.