Division in Legislature over Education Funding and Vouchers
Two issues divide legislators regarding K-12
At the Capitol, it’s a two-front war on K-12 education.
There's a division between those who want to increase funding through the per-pupil formula and those who want to make targeted, one-time, appropriations to meet specific needs.
There's a clash between those who want to keep all education dollars in public schools and those who want to send some of that money to private schools through vouchers.
"Not many can afford to pay for education twice - once with taxes and then a private school,” said Representative Wes Keller. “So it's all about choice."
Keller said it would be a good thing for both public and private schools if parents could use vouchers – for state aid – to send their children where they want to.
“It creates a competition,” said Keller. “In other jurisdictions where this type of an option has become available it has never hurt the existing system. It has actually benefited it because of the sharpening up that comes from competition."
Keller has a constitutional amendment pending in the House Finance Committee that would remove the prohibition against direct public funding of private schools.
Thursday a companion bill, to create the voucher program, passed four to three out of the House Education Committee.
Representative Scott Kawasaki was a no vote.
"Right now this bill, as written, under vouchers, means that private schools - which are not under the same laws dealing with accountability - could essentially just take that money leaving I think, too many kids behind,” said Kawasaki
He also opposes a statewide vote on amending the constitution.
"I wouldn't amend the constitution lightly,” said Kawasaki. “The founders of the U.S. and state constitutions had a very, very strict delineation between church and state. They wanted public money to go to public schools."
Each side hopes to teach the other something in days to come.