Archive for Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Corkins’ transition team touts vouchers, charter schools

December 6, 2005


— It's official: The transition team picked by Education Commissioner Bob Corkins, who supports vouchers and charter schools, has recommended vouchers and more charter schools.

The team said it made its recommendations after interviewing approximately 100 staff professionals at the Kansas Department of Education, according to a memo to the State Board of Education.

But the proposals are essentially the same recommendations Corkins made to the board last month. On Dec. 13, the board will likely approve sending all or part of the recommendation to the Legislature for consideration when the session starts Jan. 9. Leading education legislators have expressed little interest in the package.

Corkins has said vouchers, or using tax dollars to send students to private schools, will improve public schools by providing more competition.

Corkins' transition team uses a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling on school finance, long criticized by Corkins and others who support vouchers, to guide its recommendations. The transition team said it wanted to focus on students who the court "ruled do not receive a constitutionally adequate education."

The proposals include:

¢ Giving "scholarships" to attend private schools to students who receive free or reduced-cost lunches, or score below proficient on statewide tests for two consecutive years. Another proposal would provide scholarships to students who are gifted or have learning disabilities. The funds to pay for these students to go to private schools would come from tax dollars and equal the amount the state pays to educate the student in a public school. The private schools would not have to be accredited by the state.

¢ Allowing expansion of charter schools through an appeal to the State Board of Education if a local school district disapproves of opening a charter school. Charter schools generally are established for a specific purpose, and are not limited by some of the regulations governing traditional public schools. Public tax money also would be used to send students to charter schools.

Dan Harden, an education professor who heads Corkins' transition team, said increased use of charter schools would benefit parents by offering more choices for their children's education.

Randy Wagoner, superintendent of the Cherryvale school district and a member of the transition team, said while the proposals might be "scary" to some educators, "I feel that if we are going to provide the best education to our students, all options need consideration."

Proposals panned

Other public school advocates were disappointed.

"No surprises," Mark Tallman, a spokesman for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said of the transition team's proposals.

Though the recommendations appear aimed at helping students who need the most help, he said, "there is nothing that would require a private school to accept a child who is actually at risk."

Many children who are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches could qualify for the program even though they are learning at a proficient level, he said.

In addition, many of the school dollars that would follow the student are associated with extra funding given to schools for transportation needs or to improve facilities. Those funds shouldn't go to the private schools, he said.

"It is so obviously geared at promoting a nonpublic education with no connection at all to students who have special needs," Tallman said. He said he also didn't like the fact that under the proposal, private schools receiving public funds need not meet state accreditation requirements that public schools must meet.

Minority report

Dodge City school Supt. Gloria Davis was a late pick by Corkins to the transition team after complaints arose that his team included only people from northeast Kansas.

Davis wrote a minority report on the recommendations that opposes vouchers and charter schools, saying they take funds, energy and ideas from the public school system.

"I'm a strong supporter of public education," Davis said. "If there is a problem that needs to be addressed, the best way to address that is to look at what is happening in the public school system and work to correct that."

She also found it unsatisfactory that the proposal to use state taxes for private schools comes just as the Kansas Supreme Court has ordered increased funding to take care of the public school students the transition team says it wants to help.

"We finally get additional funds generated to schools, and to now say that money will flow to other nonpublic or charter schools sort of flies in the face of what we fought for in the last 10 years," she said.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 6 months ago

Taxpayers grab your wallets. Public schools are not a retail business and should not be expected to compete. Corkins does not know what he is doing and is wasting tax dollars.

I do expect to see the no tax people raise taxes in support of private enterprise. Sending financially challenged children into a private school setting can have many social malfunctions.

Jeff Barclay 12 years, 6 months ago

Should families that do not want to support public education or if their public school is failing their child have to pay taxes that fund public education? What if we gave those families their education tax dollars to spend as they wish?

Spareme 12 years, 6 months ago

To Barclay,

Tax dollars are not personal bank accounts to be spent at the discretion of every taxpayer.

I don't drive much on I-435 but spend a lot of time on the turnpike, paying tolls, should I get my share of tax dollars sent back to me that built I-435 because I don't use it. Scholarship dollars for tolls.

My family is healthy and safe. We've never had to use the service of the police and/or fire departments. I need all that tax money that supports those services back too.

I don't ever intend to be in prison, so I'll need those tax dollars back as well.

See the list goes on for state services that most of us never use. The point is they are valuable services and we need them!

Taxes are the the commonwealth for the common good.

I think one of those founding fathers knew a thing or two.

kreigel 12 years, 6 months ago

Let me preface this by saying that I have been teaching in a public high school for eleven years now... Barclay--Yes, they should have to pay taxes that fund public schools, for the same reason that an anti-war activist still has to pay taxes that fund defense spending. My money goes to many programs that I don't agree with, but that's how it works, for good or for bad. Here's my problem with Corkins' plan: he says that public schools will improve if they have competition from private and charter schools, but he espouses a plan that creates an unequal playing field for that competition. Private schools can pick and choose their students; in some cases, they even recruit. Corkins wants to allow them to continue to do so, and wants to give them our tax money without requiring them to follow the same rules and regulations that we have to follow. Similarly, charter schools are often allowed to operate without all of the oversight and regulation that exists in public education. Pitting an already flawed system that is bogged down by rules and regulations against schools that don't have to follow all of the same rules is not competition. If you disagree, I challenge you to a 100-yard dash. I'll show up in sweats and running shoes, and you'll show up with a 400 pound weight strapped to your back. Whoever wins is obviously the better competitor. Off to teach my students...

Sigmund 12 years, 6 months ago

I find it amusing every single time that vouchers are proposed people come out of the woodwork claiming that public schools can't be expected to compete and we can't give people more options for educating kids. I think public schools will compete very effectively. Further, parents who oppose the public school agenda will be helped out the door (don't let it hit you in the rear as you leave). The public schools will be left with students and parents who want their kids there and the "trouble makers" (ie anti-obscenity, pro-intelligent design, anti-sex education) will be gone.

Sounds like a good idea to me, everyone will get what they want!

Moderateguy 12 years, 6 months ago

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our State Legislature is wiser than this bunch of idiots on the School Board. Holy Cow!

Well said Spareme.

Let's go even further and talk about the tax deductions you receive for having children. Seems to me, they should pay more if the're using more services. Married peple with no children are getting screwed.

I feel like the news from this state is some sort of dark comedy. Just when you think it can't get any worse... After the book burning, we'll be burning witches again.

Mike Ford 12 years, 6 months ago

Let's see.... the school funding formula issue came out of the equal prtoection clause of the 14th amendment. Everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. This includes education. This statement stems from Brown V. Topeka Board of Education (1954). If everyone is entitled to an equal education under the law, why are Kansas legislators trying to undo Judge Terry Bullock's ruling by trying to threaten the Kansas Supreme Court with appointment terms?

Why is this Corkins character trying to push vouchers and faith-based initiatives and charter schools?

Voila! I have an answer! these people have been peeved since schools were integrated in the 1950's. They long for the good old religiously bigoted days where stuff that was done wrong to people was happening and no one spoke up. Father knew best, especially if he was white and lived in the suburbs and was on the county commission.

These people attack public schools like they're failing miserably. As a teacher's son, I'll tell you what's failed miserably, school funding. My mom left this state as a veteran educator to work in an at-risk district in Florida. The kids in her school barely have computers, let alone anything else. I find it ironic that this Corkins character pushes these options while No Child Left Behind leaves every child behind as an unfunded mandate, which Republicans are notorious for passing. I've had enough!!! I don't even have children and these people aggrevate me.

usaschools 12 years, 6 months ago

So someone who has NO KNOWLEDGE AT ALL about education, Corkins, makes a suggestion about a drastic change to our schools that is POLITICALLY MOTIVATED. Next, they interview 100 people (supposedly), none of whom want to lose their jobs, and, surprise, they agree exactly with the recommendations of their boss, even though NONE of this has been a prior recommendation of the State of KS, nor has much support in the legislature. This is 100% political. Corkins has zero experience with schools.

Competition does not improve schools. Others have cited the obvious reasons about the uneven playing field and the private schools exclusivity. Public schools also are required to teach a curriculum mandated by the State, while private schools are not. Public schools must provide special education services, even to students at private schools. When public schools test, everyone takes the test, including those with extreme disabilities, because the state and federal govt. limit the number of exemptions to a number below the prevelance rates of mental retardation and learning disabilities.

There is a fundamental difference between business and public schools that is at the root of why applying business principles to schools is a bad idea: When businesses compete, the bottom line is profit, not product. The biggest profit wins, not the best product. In schools, the best product wins, not the biggest product. We CAN NEVER lower the quality of our final product. The idea that competition will inevitably improve schools is simply false.

This metaphor also implies that there is a lack of motivation to improve in public schools. This is blatantly false.

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