Why is K-12 education so expensive these days?

Nov 13, 2013 by

by Judith Deedy

Third of three. 

We hear a lot about the rising cost of public education in Kansas, with the implication that increased spending on K-12 education must somehow be wasteful. But we ignore current reality at our own and our children’s peril. Here are some facts that show why Kansas needs to make “suitable provision” for the financing of public education, and why the cost of doing so is more now than it has been in the past:

  1. We have more students in poverty and more English-language learners (ELLs). These students often cost more to educate, but failing to educate them is short-sighted and will cost more in the future. Additionally, we still have to meet the needs of the children in the middle and those who are excelling.
  2. Federal legislation such as No Child Left Behind means teachers can’t ignore that Johnny isn’t learning at grade level, and schools are measured by their proficiency percentages. That means extra resources have to be devoted to help ensure that all children are achieving.
  3. Special education students used to be excluded from the public schools. We now not only include them, we “mainstream” them to the extent possible. This means an increase in teachers and aides for those students, as well as a need for smaller overall class sizes.
  4. More children are staying in school longer. Graduation rates are at an all-time high in Kansas and across the country. This means there are more children in the system longer. That is a good thing, but leads to more dollars spent on education.
  5. Education simply needs to be better now – a lot better. In 1973, just 28% of jobs in the US economy required more than a high school diploma. In 2010 that number had jumped to 59%, and by 2020, it is estimated that 65% of all jobs will require more than a high school diploma.
  6. Technology is expensive, but essential. Equipping classrooms with computers and iPads costs a lot more than putting an overhead projector in every room, but children today need to be able to use technology effectively in order to participate in a global economy.
  7. School districts are consumers as well as producers. They face rising costs for the items they purchase. As a service industry, a high percentage of their costs arises from wages and benefits. Health insurance costs have far outpaced inflation and school districts share that burden.
  8. In the past, KPERS (the teachers’ retirement system) wasn’t included in school funding figures. That changed a few years ago, but what hasn’t changed is that KPERS was historically underfunded; those extra, makeup payments for KPERS are in the budget now. Those funds are in school district accounts for only about 24 hours and cannot be used for any other expenses.

Just as we can’t go to the grocery store and refuse to pay more for a gallon of milk today than we did when we were children, we cannot expect schools to prepare students for today’s world on the budgets of the past. We cannot ignore reality. We must ensure that we make adequate provision for our children’s education; the welfare of our children and of our entire state depend upon it.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Threatening Peter to Defund Paul

Nov 13, 2013 by

by Judith Deedy

Second of three by Game On activist and Shawnee Mission mom, Judith Deedy.

Next time you hear someone suggest that changing judicial selection will have little to do with school funding cases, think about this statement by Rep. Lunn. (Read the whole article too – it’s a good recap.) 

In a meeting last week with higher education officials, state Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park, put Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on notice, saying that KU and other universities should prepare for significant decreases in funding if the court orders legislators to increase funding to public schools.

“You really do have a horse in this race,” Lunn said to Gray-Little. He suggested that Gray-Little “talk to your friendly Supreme Court justices.”

Apparently, some legislators want Supreme Court justices to feel pressure from various interests, instead of deciding cases (particularly school funding cases) based upon the Constitution’s mandates.

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

K-12 School Funding: Just the Facts

Nov 8, 2013 by

by Judith Deedy

This post and two more to follow are written by Judith Deedy, one of the key organizers of Game On for Kansas Schoolsa group of parents in Shawnee Mission concerned about public education. Versions of these posts appeared previously on their website. 

Lately, some local think tanks, legislators and the governor are sticking to their talking points, claiming that overall funding for education is up and that any complaints about cuts in K-12 education are either lies or just a misunderstanding. Their comments are misleading because school funding is divided into different categories – such as food service, special education, and school retirement, to name a few – and funding designated for one area usually can’t be used in other areas.

The major source of state funding that pays for the teacher salaries, supplies and the daily operating expenses of our school districts is contained in Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) in the school funding formula. This is the number that should be examined when judging how adequately we are funding K-12 education. Between 2009 and 2012, that piece of the pie was cut by over $511 million. And that figure is an annual figure, meaning that between 2009 and 2012 the school districts in Kansas lost $511 million each year in funding for salaries, supplies and other daily operating expenses.

There was a small restoration of funding in 2012-13 and the BSAPP is scheduled to increase by $15 per pupil next year, but those amounts do not make up for the significant cuts made over the last several years.

Here are three documents that show what those cuts mean in the Shawnee Mission School District. (over $10 million in annual cuts for 2009-10); (over $10 million in annual cuts and additional fees for families in 2010-2011); (over $8 million in annual cuts and additional fees for families). And that’s just the example for SMSD – the same dynamic is occurring in school districts all over Kansas.

The governor and certain legislators and advocates are trying to confuse the issue by comparing apples (base funding) to oranges (capital outlay, KPERS funding, etc.). But for parents and teachers, these cuts are not a figment of our imagination – they are very real. They effect our schools and our ability to educate our children. That’s why informed parents are concerned. 

read more

Related Posts

Share This

When it comes to addressing poverty, Brownback’s deeds don’t match his words

Sep 17, 2013 by

by H. Edward Flentje

(This article originally appeared in the September 15, 2013, edition of the Wichita Eagle.)

As a candidate for governor in 2010, Sam Brownback raised the hopes of Kansans concerned with the plight of the state’s poorest residents when he indicated that his “road map for Kansas” would address childhood poverty as one of his top five priorities. He stated specifically that his administration should be assessed on its performance in decreasing “the percentage of Kansas’ children who live in poverty.”

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the number of Kansas children living in poverty reached a high of 134,000 in 2011, Brownback’s first year in office. That number represents 19 percent of all Kansas children, also a high. Data for 2012 are expected in a few weeks.

Campaign rhetoric, however, has been pushed aside as Brownback and his administration take steps to unravel the safety net for low-income Kansans, particularly children. Specifics include:

read more

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Change in Washington Can Begin Here

Aug 26, 2013 by

by John Sullivan

This column originally appeared in the Sunday, August 18, 2013 edition of the Joplin Globe. It is common in the area to refer to the “Four-States Area,” meaning nearby areas of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas. We believe the message of holding your elected officials accountable for the gridlock they are causing in Washington is applicable to all of our readers.

Memo to the good citizens of Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma: You have the power to change the way things are going in Washington. You just need to show up at town meetings held by your U.S. representative, and tell him or her to stop politicking and start governing.

Congress is at an all-time low in public approval at only 12 percent positive, yet the gridlock continues. Why is that?

The vast majority of sensible citizens in the Four-States Area want their government to work. They don’t want to see it shut down. They want to see the problems solved. How do I know this? I have spent the last three years teaching at Pittsburg State University, Missouri Southern State University and Northeast Oklahoma A&M College. I have listened to my students’ views and concerns, and they mirror the views and concerns of the vast majority of middle-of-the-road America.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Is the Moderate coalition finished?

Aug 13, 2013 by

by Jill Docking

For the most part we have used this blog as a way to explore public policy. Today, however, I want to look at a political point, and address a question I have been asked many times over the past couple of years: is the moderate coalition, which governed the state of Kansas effectively for many years, finished as a political force?

The answer to the question is no.

For years in the legislature there was an informal coalition between moderate Republicans and Democrats, particularly in the state Senate. This group worked productively with Governors Sebelius and Parkinson, voting for policies such as the temporary sales tax increase to fund government services during the Great Recession, and blocking many of the radical conservative policies that we’ve seen enacted over the past couple of years.

And on the statewide electoral level, often Republicans would nominate a radical conservative in their primary, and Moderate Republicans and Democrats would band together to elect a moderate Democrat in November. It didn’t always work, as the example of former Attorney General Phill Kline shows, but then again, he was defeated for reelection.

read more

Related Posts

Share This

Kamikaze mission for GOP

Aug 9, 2013 by

By John T. Sullivan Jr.

This article originally appeared in the Albany (NY) Times Union

When I was a mayor of Oswego, NY, a quarter-century ago, I pushed a very ambitious agenda to reform city government, and to develop the Lake Ontario waterfront. I pushed hard, and I got a lot of push back. One Republican alderman in particular voted no on every single one of my administration’s proposals.

I recall one meeting when I interrupted one of his tirades to ask him why he was so consistently negative about everything.

“Negative? Negative?” he retorted. “I’m not negative!”

“And on the motion before the council, how do you vote, Alderman?”

“No!”

“I rest my case!” I responded.

read more

Related Posts

Share This