Kansas Values Institute, which says it promotes “traditional Kansas values,” must not think that Kansans value honesty.
An email blast sent this morning made several false statements about SB 83 that just passed the House. The bill, now being considered in the State Senate, would provide education savings accounts that parents can use for private school tuition and other specified educational uses. Kansas Values Institute, which advocates for democratic policies and politicians, is staunchly opposed to school choice and does not let the facts get in its way.
It falsely says that SB 83 “ would cost Kansas taxpayers at least $151.9 million — a massive handout to a few well-connected families who will be able to game the system at the expense of the students and teachers in our Kansas public schools.”
First, the fiscal note on SB 83 (formerly in HB 2218) estimated the cost at $24 million for each 1% of eligible public school students who enrolled. The number quoted by Kansas Values Institute included private school students who are no longer eligible to participate and public school students who no longer meet the eligibility requirements. KVI knows this but chooses the consciously deceive its followers. Dr. Martin Lueken of EdChoice estimates the first-year cost at just $14 million based on 1% participation of the much smaller number of SB 83-eligible students participating. Lueken estimates SB 83 will cost $30 million in the second year and then $26 million in the next two years.
Eligibility is now restricted to students on free/reduced lunch, who score at Level 1 (below grade level on the state assessment, or who don’t meet the F&R/Level 1 criteria but are below certain income levels. These are not families who tend to be “well-connected,” and there is no way to “game the system.” The State Treasurer’s office administrates to program and vets applicants against information provided by the Departments of Education and Revenue.
“At the expense of students and teachers” is subjective, but the experience of Arizona and Florida, states with robust choice, shows student achievement improves for all students, including those who remain in public school.
Kansas Values Institute also falsely says the purpose of SB 83 is “to divert public funding into private schools,” but the driving force is that parents are beginning to understand that achievement is much lower than school officials have led them to believe. The 2022 state assessment shows there are more students below grade level in Kansas than are proficient in reading and math.
Students who take advantage of the opportunities in SB 83 will take a portion of their funding with them, but the purpose is to get them the education they deserve.
Finally (not all of the deception, but for the purpose of this explanation), private schools will accept “at-risk” students because they already have a significant enrollment of low-income students. What’s more, low-income students in private schools perform much better than their public school peers.
KVI should just be honest about its opposition to school choice. It would rather have at-risk students trapped in underperforming schools than have the public education bureaucracy change its ways to get kids the education they deserve.