As a public school teacher for 47 years, I know first hand what it is like
to teach in schools that are not properly funded. For years, the Kansas Legislature refused to live up to their obligation and it took the courts to intervene and demand that they live up to that responsibility. I know what it is like to have to buy supplies and equipment out of my own pocket for my students because we were only allotted an annual classroom budget of $100. $100 per year!
Public schools are the mainstay of our society and allow students from all backgrounds and economic conditions the same opportunity to learn. Providing public money for private schools would divert needed funds and further exacerbate the division between rich and poor. In many parts of Kansas, particularly in more rural areas, there are no private schools anyway, so taking money away from the public schools is taking money away from their only option.
Another huge cost for public schools is the cost of special education. By law, Kansas is supposed to fund 92% of special education costs not covered by federal funds. Unfortunately the legislature is not following the law and is only funding 76%. That leaves districts with having to cover an additional $100 million dollars each year. By the 2023-24 school year, it will drop to 64%, leaving a shortfall of around $175 million. Every dollar that school districts have to pay for special education takes money from the general fund that should be used for all of the other expenses of running the school.
First of all, let me say that when it comes to public education, parents always have the right. They have the right to elect members of the State Board of Education that sets regulations and oversees the schools in this great state. They have the right to elect local school board members that oversee the education of students there in the school district. They have the right to attend school board meetings and voice their opinions. They have the right to meet with their child’s teacher in a one-on-one situation in order to work together to create the best possible educational experience for their child. They have the right to view published curriculums for every grade and every course being taught.
Unfortunately, there are those who want to disseminate disinformation that drives a wedge between well-intentioned schools and teachers and the parents and children whom they serve. This disinformation would have you believe that schools and teachers have suddenly become this evil force that wants nothing other than to subvert the minds of young students. There is nothing that could be farther from the truth but if a lie gets repeated enough times, people start to buy into it. Fear is a powerful motivator and those that perpetrate these lies know it all too well. There are corporations and entities right here in the State of Kansas as well as across the nation that would like nothing less than the total dismantlement of the public education system. In their minds, the idea of public anything is problematic. They would privatize everything if possible, and our proud tradition of public schools stands in their way.
In order to stoke the fear, legislators have devised legislation that would micromanage the smallest details of the schools that should be left to the State Board of Education and our local school boards and to our professional educators. The amount of paperwork and accountability that teachers already are dealing with becomes an unbearable burden if they have to publish a whole year’s worth of every lesson plan and a list of all the materials they plan to use. What happens to those teachable moments that come up in every classroom where you need to deviate from “the plan” in order to take advantage of those opportunities? How does it affect the morale of these professional educators when they feel like they aren’t being trusted—and all because of lies being put out there about them? How do we keep our good teachers from wanting to just hang it up?
I support the autonomy of local schools to make the proper decision according to the current KSHSAA Policy for Transgender Student Participation.
“The school is responsible to determine the appropriate gender team for participation by the student. Once this determination is made, the school is responsible to notify the KSHSAA if a student intends to participate on a team opposite their birth gender. Notification must be given prior to entering the student in the KSHSAA eligibility system and allowing participation. Once a student is identified as transgender and elects to participate, they will participate in that gender category in all sports, for the remainder of their scholastic eligibility in grades 7-12. Annual renewal is not necessary.”