Cadiz, KY

Opinion

Public money doesn't belong in private schools

Wednesday, March 01, 2017 - Updated: 2:11 AM
BY JAN CULWELL Trigg County Democratic Party President

I feel very strongly that taxes collected for the purpose of supporting public education should not be diverted to other schools. This money should not be used for private schools, charter schools or home schools. This money is collected for public schools and nothing else.

My opinion is based on many issues, and it is just not possible to say which one is the most important. Let me describe the top three.

Student outcome: When a child starts an educational career, we see a 5- or 6-year-old with a promising future at their feet. We hope and expect that they will learn what is in the books as well as working and playing together with kids from various backgrounds. We expect that after graduating from high school they will go on to higher education or begin a career. From a public school, you can learn what the results will likely be. If it is less than you want, you can work to improve it. Don't take away funding to support a system that is less transparent.

Teacher Salary: The salary difference is significant between public and private school teachers. The average annual base salary for a public school teacher is $49,600. The average annual base salary for a private school teacher is $36,300. The vast difference is most often blamed on the difference in student behavior: Teachers are willing to work for less money if the students are less disruptive. If private schools attract students with fewer behavioral problems, that leaves public schools with a higher percentage of students with behavior disorders.

And if public school taxes are taken by other schools, there is less money to educate the neediest of students.

School budget: School taxes are meant to be used for public education. The budget is prepared with the knowledge that a certain amount of money will be available. This budget covers the school's property tax, insurance, janitorial services, utilities, teacher and support staff salaries. Most of these expenses will not change if the student population is reduced. If students are drawn away by other styles of education and the money goes with them, the public schools will need more money. And we know where that money will come from. Higher school taxes.

We are at a critical time on this topic due to actions at both state and national levels.

On the state level, at first there was a bill proposing to open charter schools in Louisville and Lexington. House Bill 520, though, would allow charter schools throughout the state. There would be no limit on the number of charters, and it would allow "virtual" instruction. That means Internet-based instruction. Your school tax dollars, intended for your public schools, would instead go to out-of-state corporations.

There is a school in Herndon, Va., that operates charter and online schools. It is called K12. Of the eight lobbyists pushing to pass this law, three of them work for K12. They are Amy Wickliff (state republican party finance chair), John T. McCarthy III and Libby Milligan (both members of the state Republican executive committee).

Since 1990, Kentucky has made great strides in education as compared to schools in other states. Lawmakers put that at risk by making this change with so few days to study the issue.

At the national level, the Department of Education is headed up by Betsy DeVos, who has no experience or knowledge of public education. So how could she be confirmed? This quote from her will explain that: "My family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican party. I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. We expect a return on our investment."

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