Voucher Push Stalls in Kansas

Tennessee Continues Dismal School Funding

An effort to expand a school voucher program has stalled in the Kansas legislature, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports.

After a dramatic series of twists and turns, a major school choice expansion in Kansas was shot down Friday in the Kansas Senate, with legislators now forced to find a path forward on funding the state's public schools.

The cost of the proposals has been a key area of concern. Williams estimated 5,000 students will eventually take advantage of the program. Under current school funding levels, that would mean $23 million being diverted away from public schools, although the eventual figure could increase rapidly if more students opt to join.

Conservatives have chafed at a decade's worth of court decisions requiring increased investment in the state's schools. Opponents of the legislation have argued it will land the state back in a legal minefield by diverting funds to private schools.

The challenge of school funding in Kansas in recent years seems similar to the education policy choices made in Indiana. Those choices were recently called out by an economist in the state as part of the reason Indiana will struggle to recover economically post-pandemic.

Underfunding of public services that are critical to the economy has never been a conservative principle. Following a decade of budget cuts and experimentation with schools, we have enough data to draw some pretty clear conclusions. These tax cuts and educational reforms have not yielded us their promise of better educational attainment or economic growth. It is time to get back on track or prepare to face another lost decade.

Meanwhile, in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Lee released his budget amendment today. While many education advocates were hoping to see a boost to school funding, Lee’s proposal did not include significant new money for K-12 education. This led the state’s teachers’ union (TEA) to call Lee’s education budget “woefully short” of what the state needs for schools.

The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (TACIR) outlined the chronic problems with the BEP, indicating that “fully funding” the state formula would require an additional $1.7 billion in state funding. The current administration proposal is a little more than $200 million.

It is time for the state to do better. The money is there to get Tennessee out of the bottom 5 in state funding

Finally, as testing season ramps up, a note on opting-out:

Fortunately, the advocates over at Save our Schools PAC offer some key insight into just how to accomplish this. Here’s a quick rundown:

There are only eight states that allow you to opt your child out of testing. Tennessee is NOT one of those states. However, there are no state laws in TN that require your child to take any TNReady test, so you and your child can refuse the test.

To refuse the test, you’ll need to make your request in writing and explain to your child why they will not be taking the test and to not be pressured into taking the test.

Because, after all, the test only really reveals one thing:

An analysis of TCAP performance over time indicates that those school systems with consistently high levels of poverty tend to have consistently low scores on TCAP. Likewise, those systems with the least amount of poverty tend to have consistently higher scores on TCAP.

Much attention was focused on Tennessee and our “rapid gains” on the NAEP. Less celebrated by state officials was the attendant expansion of the achievement gap between rich and poor students.