March 24, 2023

Cindy Holscher: The voucher bill scam

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Kansas State Senator Cindy Holscher too to the pages of the Shawnee Mission Post to explain just who benefits from the Kansas voucher proposal.

It appears wealthy families in Johnson County owe a big “thank you” to many of the legislators outside of the area.

There have been several bills circulating through the Kansas Senate and House over the past few weeks that, if implemented, will shift millions of dollars in taxpayer funds from western parts of Kansas to Johnson County.

How can that happen? And, why would legislators from some of the more rural parts of the state  that are struggling to keep their communities going decide to send their hard-earned taxpayer dollars to Johnson County, one of the richest areas of the state?

It’s all through “school choice” vouchers/educational scholarships.

Over the past few years, lobbyists who work for wealthy individuals and organizations have been selling legislators on the idea of vouchers to “allow parents to choose” which school they feel is right for their children. These lobbyists push private schools as the cure-all to any situation while working to divide us with topics like critical race theory, “parent’s rights,” etc.

But here’s something that typically isn’t mentioned: out of a total of 105 counties in Kansas, 64 have no private school options. On the flip side, guess which area has the most private schools? That’s right, Johnson County!

How does the proposal affect rural counties?

But, wait a minute, you’re probably thinking if there are no choices in 64 counties, students will continue to attend public schools, which means those schools won’t be hurt by vouchers. But not so fast, because, there’s only a certain amount of funding available.

The money for those vouchers gets diverted from local public school funds. the more vouchers that are provided to wealthy families in Johnson County for private schools, the less money that is available to local public schools.

Think of it this way: let’s say for simplicity sake that the total budget for public schools in the state is $100 million and your local public school district gets $10 million.

Now, if $30 million goes to vouchers for students in Johnson County, your local public school’s budget will shrink to $7 million. If your district is already having a hard enough time recruiting and hiring teachers, buying supplies, etc., think what a budget reduction of almost a third will do.

But aren’t there poor families in Johnson County who could benefit? There are–but they won’t get help here.

Tuition for many of the private schools is close to $15,000 annually, some around $25,000. A voucher would likely be worth around $5,000. No struggling family is going to be able to come up with another $10-20,000 per child to send them to a private school. But if you’re already wealthy and sending your children to a private institution, getting $5,000 “back” per kiddo is a nice windfall.

And these top schools are already full. But perhaps new schools will appear to meet the market.

What we have seen happening in those states is the proliferation of “pop up” schools. Essentially, as more money is drained from the public schools, fly-by-night organizations or individuals come into the area and set up charter schools or other forms of private schooling, often in strip malls.

With no oversight or accountability (as prescribed through the bills being passed), these pop-up schools are ripe for fraudulent practices. Many of them end up closing within four or five years, which is enough time for the owners to stuff their pockets with voucher money while providing little in terms of actual education.

Read the full op-ed here.



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