For all the tears shed, money spent, decisions made, debating points argued, laws passed and ink devoted to the public school establishment in Kansas, an outside observer could be forgiven for not knowing there are any kind of schools but public schools, nor any kind of students but public school students.
For all the State Supreme Court’s talk about adequate funding, the children being educated outside the public school establishment make do in almost every case on a fraction of the money spent on their public school peers.
But it’s tough sledding. In April 2017, the Sentinel did a piece on Padre Pio Academy in Shawnee, Kansas. At the time, the cost per student of a Padre Pio education was $3586 against a $13,025 per student average in the allegedly cash-starved Kansas public schools.
Padre Pio took sixteen students to the 2017 Greater Kansas City Science & Engineering Fair. The students won nine golds, six silvers and one bronze. One of the students also won the Division Championship in Chemistry. Last spring, the school took second place in the St. James Academy Scholar Bowl.
This fall, the school will not open. After 17 years of cutting costs close to the bone, the Padre Pio experience proved unsustainable. It is just a coincidence that the state was pumping an additional $584 million into the public school system at the time the Padre Pio board realized it could no longer adequately fund the school.
Virtually all of those students will return to home schooling or a parochial school. There are roughly 17,000 Kansas children now being homeschooled. Another 15,000 or so attend private or parochial high schools. As many as 36,000 attend private or parochial elementary schools and 25,000 attend pre-schools.
In sum, the parents of nearly 100,000 Kansas students have opted out of the public school system. They have foresworn the swimming pools, weight rooms, and high tech gimmickry of public schools for an educational environment that does not defy their values or endanger their children. By keeping their kids out of public schools, these parents save the state as much $1.3 billion per year.
The last thing these parents want is direct aid from the state given the mandates that would accompany it. They would, however, like a little consideration from the courts and/or the legislature before either demands more of their money to educate other people’s kids.