House candidates on the issues: Do you support using public tax dollars for private schools?

Dan Blom - October 20, 2016 11:00 am

The Shawnee Mission School District board is expecting a new education funding formula to be adopted by the Kansas Legislature this session.

We sent questions last week to candidates for state representative in Kansas House Districts 19, 21, 24 and 25, all of which cover sections of northeast Johnson County. The questions we selected came from the large number of questions submitted by readers.

By the deadline to respond to the fourth question, we had received the following responses that appear below. Today’s question is:

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Do you believe public tax support should be directed toward non public schools in Kansas?

House District 19

Elizabeth Meitl

Elizabeth Meitl
Elizabeth Meitl

It is fundamentally unconstitutional to use public tax dollars to pay for, subsidize, or in any way support private schools. Public schools are a treasure, and any time we re-direct money that should be used for public education into private institutions we are plundering one of our greatest resources.

Here’s the deal – even if you think public schools are a disaster (which they’re not) then the answer is to invest more in them, not less. Here are a few reasons:

1. Private schools are not required to educate students. Students who are harder to educate for any reason can be kicked out of private schools at any time. If we subsidize private educations, and then those private schools vet their students for behavior, cognitive ability, or parental pedigree, we will end up with a segregated educational system so massively inequitable that society won’t be able to sustain itself.
2. Private schools can teach anything they choose. If a private school wants to teach the same curriculum as public schools, they can. However, if they want to teach something else – anything else – they can do that, too. People who think this is a good idea tend to imagine that public school “values” don’t match their own, and private school “values” do. This is short-sighted, however, because anyone (with any wild set of beliefs) can start a private school, which could in turn receive tax dollars.
3. The undermining of public education is a bad move, financially. Businesses and home owners like to locate themselves in places with strong public schools. There are very few cities in our country which thrive economically despite bad public schools. When we take money out of public education and give it to private schools we are creating weaker public schools, which is just not a good long-term strategy for anybody.

John Taube

John Taube
John Taube

I believe that there must be options for parents who either have special needs children, or reside in failing public school districts. Yes, we have failing, and near failing public schools that take all the public tax money for each child and do them a disservice. The private market does have answers for these scenarios. Even if temporary legislation be created until public schools are all performing well for all children, it’s better than directing children into these broken schools. This legislation should not include Parochial schools in my opinion though.

 

Stephanie Clayton

Stephanie Clayton
Stephanie Clayton

Public tax dollars should absolutely not be directed toward private schools, for several reasons.
The legislature holds our public schools to very high budgetary standards, and it is easy for taxpayers to review the budgets for our local school districts.  Our locally-elected boards of education are accountable to the public as well.  Private schools are not subject to these same standards or checks.  This presents a major problem, as your public tax dollars could be diverted to institutions that are not forthcoming with you about what is being done with them.

Private institutions can also discriminate against students for numerous reasons, including students with special needs, students in the LGBTQIA+ community, or students with disciplinary histories.  I strongly believe public education must strive to serve everyone, and that your tax money should not go to institutions that exclude students or their families.

I respect my constituents who choose to send their children to private or parochial schools.  And, I believe most of my constituents would prefer that the state not unreasonably interfere with the faith traditions or other principles underpinning their private schools.  But, if public dollars are funneled to private institutions, then they should be subject to the same requirements to which we hold our public schools.  I would prefer that religious or private institutions feel free to maintain their independence.
As a mother of two children currently enrolled in the Shawnee Mission School District, I have been and will remain a strong advocate for our public schools.  Please join me in preserving our tradition of educational excellence. I ask for your vote on November 8.

House District 21

Jerry Stogsdill

Jerry Stogsdill
Jerry Stogsdill

I will strongly oppose voucher plans, tuition tax credits, “scholarships” and any other legislative scheme to divert public tax money from our public schools and put it into the hands of private schools, religious schools, or home schools. Taxpayer money is intended to fund public education for all children regardless of religious affiliation, race, socio-economic standing or political beliefs and must be used solely and without exception for that educational purpose.

We have some excellent religious schools in the 21st District and the vast majority of parents I have talked to, whose children attend those schools, agree with the concept of the separation of church and state and recognize that great public schools are a major benefit to their community, their home values and the economic prosperity of this region.
Good religious schools and private schools certainly serve a function within our educational system, but, public tax money is collected and earmarked for our public schools and I will be a strong voice to make sure that those monies are used strictly in support of public education.

Dorothy Hughes

Dorothy Hughes
Dorothy Hughes

We have great schools here in the Shawnee Mission School District, and I oppose policies designed to divert state education dollars away from public education. I support the ability of families to choose non-public options; however, that is a personal choice, and it is not appropriate to provide public subsidies. Especially given the dire revenue situation we face in Kansas, our priorities speak volumes. How we choose to direct our limited resources matters.

Public education is a public good and should be supported with public dollars. I realize I’m being repetitive with the use of the word “public,” but it is deliberate. State government exists to govern the public sector at the state level. It does not exist to divert taxpayer dollars to private institutions, tell local governments how to operate, or dictate our personal choices. This principle – good governance – is at the heart of our decisions at the voting booth this year. We have to get back to good governance and place our state on the right track: good stewardship of taxpayer dollars, support for public education, and accountability to the people.

I am a proud graduate of Kansas public schools, and I hold a master’s degree from a public university, KU. The Legislature’s unwillingness to invest in public K-12 education and public higher education is not acceptable. We can change this, and it starts by sending people to Topeka who will support leaders who will lead, prioritize public education, and get away from partisan agendas. I fit this bill and ask for your support in bringing about positive change.

House District 24

Jarrod Ousley

Jarrod Ousley
Jarrod Ousley

No.

During the last session while on the education committee, an expansion of the Tax Credit Scholarship Fund was up for discussion. The Tax Credit Scholarship works by providing a tax credit to the contributor to the fund.  The credit allows the contributor to the fund to credit their tax bill with 70% of what they’ve given.  Thus, the revenue received by the state is dramatically reduced to create a fund that provides tuition dollars for individuals at private schools.  I asked in committee, where is this tax credit being diverted from?  That is, where would the tax dollars that would have been collected but for the credit go if the credit were not in place.  The answer was the state general fund.  The state general fund is what allocates dollars for public education in our state.  As a result of the tax credit we have fewer dollars to distribute to our local public schools that are tasked with educating every child in Kansas, regardless of ability, religion, or zip code.

During times of limited revenue, we cannot further restrict resources to public school students.

Rob Johnson

Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson

No, I do not believe public tax support should be directed toward non public schools in Kansas. Primarily, it makes no financial sense. The state is having trouble managing and paying for the current system. Adding more to this already overflowing plate is not good policy. Second, I oppose this idea because if non public schools take public tax dollars they could be required to meet certain state regulatory hurdles. Those regulations may conflict with the schools’ objectives. There certainly is a place and important role for private schools in the state of Kansas. I fully support them and their important mission and purpose. I simply don’t agree with providing these schools with public tax support.

I would support an optional tax credit for those families that have their children in a non public school. The amount of that credit needs additional review and must be vetted further, but I believe it is an idea meriting additional discussion.

House District 25

Melissa Rooker

Melissa Rooker
Melissa Rooker

No. Article 6 of our state constitution makes this very clear. Here is a link. https://kslib.info/832/Article-Six-Education
Our constitutional charge is to provide a system of public schools open to all students free of charge, and without religious ties.

In Kansas, parents may choose to send their child to public schools, home school, utilize virtual education services, or send their child to private school. We allow private schools to choose whether or not to be accredited by the state. We also operate award-winning public charter schools. Choice abounds.

Should a parent choose to send their child to a private school, the state does not have a constitutional obligation to provide public tax dollars in support of that choice. Think of it in these terms – we operate public libraries with public tax dollars and allow people to use the resources of the library free of charge. If a person chooses to instead order from Amazon, the state does not have an obligation to provide a gift card.

The legislation enacted in 2014 was simply a legal tax avoidance scheme for corporations – they receive 70% of the amount they give as a dollar for dollar tax credit that can be carried over from one tax year to the next until it is exhausted, which means tax dollars that would be going to fund our public schools are instead being diverted to pay for more corporate tax breaks. This is yet another example of tax policy that needs to be included in comprehensive reform of our tax code

Matt McCann
Did not respond.

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