Archive for Wednesday, December 14, 2005

State board holds off on school vouchers decision

Education commissioner says private schools could help close achievement gap

December 14, 2005


— Two conflicting views of public schools battled Tuesday to a no-decision before the Kansas State Board of Education.

After more than five hours of sometimes heated debate, the Education Board postponed until next month whether to recommend that the Legislature adopt private school vouchers and expansion of charter schools.

"There's a lot of information that was given that we have to assimilate," said board chairman Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City. Abrams declined to speculate on whether he had a 6-4 majority to send the measures to lawmakers.

On one side was Education Commissioner Bob Corkins pushing for a package that would allow certain students to use tax monies to attend private schools, and liberalizing the ability for partially deregulated charter schools to start.

The moves would help close the achievement gap between minority and white students, "which we have a moral and legal responsibility to close," Corkins said.

But opponents, including dozens of public school administrators who packed the meeting room, said the measures were an attack on public schools and would hurt the very students that supporters said they wanted to help. They said private schools would "cream-skim" the best students, while not having to abide by expensive federal and state regulations.

In a tense exchange, board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., asked Corkins whether he would change his proposal to make it so that private schools would have to accept every eligible student and would be required to comply with the same standards as public schools.

Corkins answered that he wouldn't. She asked him why, and he said because no private school would participate under those conditions.

Plan components

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.

Although the room was packed with opponents of the proposals, some testified in favor.

Little River Supt. Milt Dougherty said with tests showing that 30 percent to 50 percent of students failing to reach proficiency, "our kids aren't broken, but our system is."

But Waugh responded that Dougherty's remarks were unfair to every teacher in the state.

Greg Forster, a senior fellow with the Indianapolis-based Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, said vouchers would help public schools by making them compete for students.

"Public schools are a monopoly system with little incentive to improve," Forster said.

Mixed results

But other superintendents said that Kansas public schools were doing a good job and that vouchers and charter schools had mixed results at best.

John Morton, superintendent of the Newton school district, said vouchers were "an old answer to an old question."

Earlier, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius criticized the proposals, saying they were trendy years ago, produced mixed results and never caught on in Kansas.

"What's interesting to me is that in some ways the board is focusing on old news," Sebelius said.

"I'm hoping that what we can do is move forward and look at what is going to make the most effective public school system possible ... not only in Kansas but in the country," Sebelius said.


Richard Heckler 12 years, 5 months ago

While I imagine there are a few success stories these points probaly should be considered:

Would not likely be the rule of thumb:

Article of Interest - Charter Schools Einstein Academy Loses Its Charter A state board upheld findings by Morrisville's school district. The online school will appeal. by Martha Woodall, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer, May 15, 2003

For more articles like this visit

The state charter appeals board pulled the plug yesterday on Einstein Academy, once the largest of the state's eight online charter schools.

By a 6-0 vote, the board upheld a decision of the Morrisville Borough School District to revoke the school's charter.

During yesterday's meeting, board members did not give reasons for their decision. But State Secretary of Education Vicki L. Phillips said in an interview later that members had agreed with many of Morrisville's findings, including the lack of special education services and poor fiscal management at the school.

Phillips said the school, which has a K-12 enrollment of 670 students, would operate through the end of the academic year. "We do not want to disrupt the children," she said.

Initially implementing charter schools will be like reinventing the wheel which will require a boat load of cash. Charter schools and or private schools cannot guarantee anymore than what public schools achieve.

Private schools not only do not offer guarantees on education they are accountable primarily to the bottom line. Private schools also have the image of being very expensive which means where will the money come from...our wallets. As I have stated previously there are plenty of families in Douglas and Johnson Counties with financial means to enroll children in private schools yet there is not this massive exodus of public schools. The same could be said of homeschooling.

badger 12 years, 5 months ago

"Greg Forster, a senior fellow with the Indianapolis-based Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, said vouchers would help public schools by making them compete for students."

Yeah, because what's wrong with the system is TOTALLY that the public schools just aren't trying right now.

Kookamooka 12 years, 5 months ago

This makes NO SENSE at all. Why would someone who has a child with a learning disability want to send them to a private school that can IN NO WAY help that child. The private schools around here send LD kids to the public school for services. So why do LD kids get vouchers for private education? A non-accredited private school would not help the gifted child either. It takes a lot of training and money to teach the gifted child. Again, if you ask the parent of a gifted child at a private school if they got the services they needed the answer would be no. BECAUSE the private schools in Lawrence send their GIFTED children to USD497 for additional services. Does Corkins just NOT GET IT? Is he really not informed? Why is he doing this job? Private schools are not about getting a better education or improved services, they are about keeping your child away from "unsavory underprivledged" children and instilling RELIGIOUS values at school. That's about it. (OH yeah, there is what I call the "snob" factor too.) Private schools can accept or reject whomever they want. So just because you have a VOUCHER doesn't mean you're child will get in. The STATE has NO juristiction over who the private school admits! Did he forget about that?

Bruce Bertsch 12 years, 5 months ago

You should also note that it was one of the founding fathers, and no right wing wacko who created the public school system and made it law, one John Adams. I find it ironic that you would trot out Mill who was writing of State mandated curiculum to support Corkins who would like nothing better than state mandated curiculum. Strange juxstaposition.

Kodiac 12 years, 5 months ago


Your statement of "Voucher programs have had success in Madison and Cleveland" is somewhat misleading.

Can you tell us what you mean by "success" Arminius?

If you actually look at the voucher programs at those places you will find that participation is very small (less than 5% of the public school children population) mainly because choices are limited (restricted acceptance criteria to private schools and limited number of private schools that you could actually attend) and even with the vouchers the majority of parents still cannot afford to send their kids to private schools. Those who do use the voucher system in those places are sending their kids to religious private school which means that tax dollars are being used to support religious agendas. Public school enrollments has actually increased since the voucher programs were instituted in Madison. You also failed to mention the voucher programs in Florida which have been failing miserably and about to be abandoned.

Nonsense 12 years, 5 months ago

What does it take to abolish the state board? It seems the local school district can ignore its directions. So what good do they do?

Kodiac 12 years, 5 months ago


"According to the Aug. 6, 1997, issue of Education Week, the vouchers in Cleveland's program are "worth as much as $2,500" and "will enable 3,000 children from poor families to attend private schools this year at taxpayers' expense." According to the December 1996 issue of Reason, "Since 1990, a limited school choice program has allowed about 1,300 low-income students to attend a number of secular private schools in the Milwaukee area." Incidentally, well over 80 percent of these students were either Latino or African American."

And here we are in 2005 and you are citing information from 8 or 9 years ago? I suggest you go look at what is happening now. By the way how much do you think private school costs? $2500 a year? Yeah riiiight. I wonder how many of those students got scholarships from the private schools they were attending. Again you need to look at what is happening now Arminius. Again I ask you to define "success". Vouchers are used by 1 out of every 20 students in Milwalkee. That is 5% of the public school population. Also there is available money in the current voucher system in Milwalkee that is not currently being used. Another words, the limited amount of money that is slotted for vouchers is not being completely used because not enough parents are actually using this program.

I am not familiar with the GI bill and or VEAP . Will have to look into that.

Kodiac 12 years, 5 months ago

Also the comment of "allowed about 1,300 low-income students to attend a number of secular private schools in the Milwaukee area." is false. 96% of the students that use the Milwaukee voucher program are attending religious private schools not secular private schools. In fact I challenge you to find out how many actual secular private schools there are in Milwaukee. I would bet my bottom dollar that you are going to find out that almost all of the private schools there are religious-based not secular.

Kodiac 12 years, 5 months ago


Your discourse is disingenius. I was merely pointing out to you that you are not showing what is happening now after the program has been going for awhile. It has nothing to do with being conservative or liberal. It has everything to do with whether these programs are successful or not which means you have to look at the entire timeframe and the context that it is in.

If you going to offer information to illustrate a point then you need to give the full data set and not a partial one. I know how much it cost to send a kid to a private school because that is what I am doing that right now. I can tell you that there is no way that a voucher could cover that kind of cost. The figures that are being thrown around by Billy Bob Corkins wouldn't even cover half of the cost. How do you think a family living at the proverty level is going to be able to afford going to a private school on a voucher system alone. How many choices in private schools do you think exist in Western Kansas?

You can illustrate all you want Arminius but don't sit there and make this a liberal/conservative issue. If you really want to talk about how to make a voucher system work here in Kansas then you need to show a little more thought on what type of system we have here in Kansas, an assessment of this system, can we make it better? Does it need to be improved? We have toyed with the voucher system approach before. What happened there? Why was it abandoned or opposed?

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