Trouble in Kansas : Education Next:
"Kansas’s judicially grounded regime of equitable school spending recently led to a most peculiar federal case, Petrella v. Brownback, in which parents from a wealthy suburban Kansas City school district, Shawnee Mission, sued for permission to raise their property taxes so that they could spend more on education. The case is striking both for its facts and for the plaintiffs’ far-reaching claims.
Like some other states, such as Vermont and Texas, Kansas has responded to school finance litigation by limiting how much school districts can spend. Following a 1991 trial court decision in Mock v. State invalidating an existing plan, the legislature under a state judge’s supervision enacted a sweeping reform that met his standards for equity yet made a concession to wealthier districts with provision for a local-option budget. The state would provide a base level of funding per pupil but allowed districts to levy additional local taxes up to a cap of 25 percent of their base. By 2010 the cap had risen to 30 percent or, with approval of district voters, 31 percent."I have already posted about how compulsory attendance has confused funding for schools by tying funding to attendance, attendance enforced by compulsory attendance laws. Wealthy districts have pushed this situation to the point where we have schools districts that are becoming public/private hybrids that come down hard on parents who want a child to attend a good school. Look at the outrage directed at Williams-Bolar and note that others were also prosecuted. Of course, that district is only too happy to take the hard-earned tax dollars parents like Williams-Bolar pay, at a far higher rate than wealthier citizens pay, and have that tax money form the base that their exclusive club of a neighborhood then improves upon.
Gated school districts anyone?
Schools should be a public service we citizens provide for ourselves and our children. But what we have evolved in the US is shaping up to be a very different thing especially after 30+ years of neoliberalism that siphoned the productivity gains from workers to the upper classes, some of it through using the schools whose very structure favors kids from upper classes.
The Demise of a Public System
What many of us thought were public facilities for a large public are now becoming privatized by a global elite. Public universities raise tuition past what the citizens can afford and some allow increased enrollment for out-of-state and out-of-country students to avoid budget shifts. My local university is a good deal for students from the global middle-class and there are many students from abroad attending. My neighbors can't get in and they can't pay for classes on Wal-Mart wages.
At the same time, we have begun requiring credentials that are not free for citizens to get. Thousands of government jobs require a BA when there is no path that pays for a citizen to get a BA. The high school diploma got a citizen a good job and the degree was free. But the "required" BA is something citizens must pay for and is not available for free. And many states give mostly merit aid that favors the middle and upper classes. The whole point of the high school degree was to ensure that a trained populace was ready for jobs: if after extending compulsory schooling to 12+ years, a citizen still has to pay fees that have climbed higher faster than even housing prices, it is a credential that effectively removes the bulk of the population from work in their own government.
If the funding isn't tied to the child, it can't move and it can't be matched. Maybe its time to actually understand what's going on and how compulsory attendance has structured schools. It could be different: we do not need these torturous arrangements all based on portioning the money and incomes into many segments. We could have school choice within the public schools and voluntary attendance would likely increase use and expand service. If families could choose the classes they wanted and get the services they need as well as the counseling and support, we would have lots of people employed and lots of families using the schools. It would be a true public option for schools.
More on how compulsory attendance confuses funding at Update on Williams-Bolar