March 21, 2023

Kansas City Star Editorial Board: Kansas ‘school choice’ plan is a money transfer from rural taxpayers to urban families

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In its recent editorial, the editorial board of the Kansas City Star stands firmly against the proposed voucher program. They note that the bill is called a “scholarship” because “voucher” is a term that doesn’t test well with the public.

Whatever you call it, the bill would divert state taxpayer dollars to private schools and home schooling. The Kansas Division of Budget estimates it would cost $152 million per year. That’s public money that wouldn’t be available to still-underfunded public schools.

No one should expect this to be the end of it, either. In a few years, Republicans will declare it a success and try to expand it to all Kansans in private schools.

When the program is fully implemented, a family of four with household income of $180,000 in today’s dollars would be eligible. That might not be the top 1% of earners, but it’s hardly poverty.

Most low-income Kansans, even with a few thousand dollars of help, still couldn’t afford tuition at a private school. There’s a sweet spot in there somewhere, but many of the beneficiaries can afford private school already.

Rural residents should be especially outraged, as they’d end up subsidizing urban students. Most private schools are located in the state’s urban areas. Unless a family in a rural community has a nearby private school that aligns with their values, or the wherewithal to home-school their kids, their taxes will go into the Sunflower Fund — but they’ll never benefit from it.

Because the public pays for education, it imposes standards and transparency on public schools. Those schools might not always live up to the public’s expectations, but the public then has the power to elect new education leaders and new lawmakers to fix things.

Private schools and home schools aren’t held to the same standards. Kansans would have no assurance that their tax dollars are going to good use. Indeed, unaccountable private schools can go far off the rails.

Read the full editorial here. 


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