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The school choice debate heats up in Kansas

Kansas’ top Republican lawmakers are focusing on helping conservative parents remove their children from public schools for what they are taught about gender and sexuality.

A proposal to allow parents to use state tax dollars to pay for private or home schooling was expected to be available online Tuesday, a day after a K-12 spending committee introduced the measure in the state House of Representatives.

Funding and tuition plans for public schools have become major issues for conservative politicians nationwide. Iowa lawmakers passed similar legislation last week, and at least a dozen states are considering similar legislation.

Funneling public money to private schools isn’t a new idea, but it has revived since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, in part due to parental concerns about masks and vaccines. The issue has also been driven by opposition to the way some schools conduct classes on topics such as gender, sexuality and race.

Public education groups and Democratic lawmakers argue that such proposals siphon money from state K-12 schools for the benefit of private and home schools. They say conservative Republicans are trying to dismantle public education.

State Representative Jarrod Ousley, a Kansas City-area Democrat whose wife serves on a local school board, said public schools help build communities. “This is the fabric of our nation,” Ousley said.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly strongly opposes a plan like the one presented in the House.

Supporters of private schools and homeschooling say parents want more choices because they haven’t been happy with remote schooling during the pandemic.

Wade Moore, a bishop at the Christian Faith Center in Wichita, Kansas, told the crowd at a school choice rally that a school choice law like the one in Iowa allows parents to avoid “crazy stuff” in schools public. After the demonstration, he said he meant violence, such as fighting, and issues such as which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender students can use.

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