In Kansas, don’t mention the level of school spending

At a meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation today, it was apparent that facts are either not known — or not important — to public school spending advocates.

The audience for today’s meeting was, apparently, heavily stocked with teachers who were eager to voice approval or displeasure with statements made by either the public speakers or the legislators. At one time the teachers drew a reprimand from Representative Nile Dillmore.

Here’s what Kansas should learn from this meeting — something important that affects actual public policy: We can’t have an honest discussion of school finance unless we recognize and agree on some facts such as the current level of spending. The teachers in today’s audience either don’t know the facts, or don’t want to talk about them.

Teachers react to school spending.

In the nearby audio clip, Representative Gene Suellentrop told the audience the spending figures for USD 259, the Wichita public school district. According to figures available from the Kansas State Department of Education, he was correct to the dollar. The audience reacted with jeers.

So we’re left wondering this: Do Kansas schoolteachers know the correct level of school spending? Or do they know, but don’t believe it? Or do they know, but don’t want to talk about it?

This is particularly troubling for Kansas, as the public school bureaucracy insists on more school spending. But talking about actual school spending is somehow uncouth and deserves to be shouted down.

Newspaper editorial boards aren’t helping Kansans learn about school spending and student achievement. Surveys find that like the general public across the nation, Kansans are uninformed on school spending.

This is the uncomfortable condition of public discourse in Kansas. We are lacking in knowledge and facts. Even worse, we’ve taken something that ought to be noncontroversial (the education of children) and turned it into a shouting match. This is what we get by turning over important things to politics.


3 thoughts on “In Kansas, don’t mention the level of school spending”

  1. Exactly right. There is no reasonable discussion to be had. Every time I go to one of these it tends to be a union rally, with the rest of the citizens not represented. I am surprised these legislators even come anymore, just to get booed and jeered. I have to give kudos to Sen. Faust-G. for trying to keep order. She was the perfect choice to head up the meeting. I saw her shake her head, and look appalled several times at the poor behavior of the union audience.

  2. Bob,
    Ive watched you on This Week in Kansas, and have read many of the updates and newletters that you email me. Much of my Kansas House campaign this past fall centered around the subject education funding. I appreciate your due dilligence and respect your opinion in reference to school spending as for the most part you stick to the facts. It’s obvious that your interests direct you to look at the $12,000 number and my interests direct me to advocate for full funding of the base aid number. It’s really frustrating to hear that school board candidates are not familiar with the $3,838 current base aid number, and understand the much higher $12,000 number. I am going to continue to advocate for full funding of the base aid to the $4,400+ that was deemed “suitable”. Thank you for doing what you do, and doing it in a civil way. I hope those candidates down there in Wichita are quick learners.

  3. It is sad that the only time that the liberal KS news media bothers to report the actual figure of >$12k per pupil per year in government school spending is when the Kansas Policy Institute purchases an ad in the Wichita Eagle. The fact that base state aid figure of around $4,000 per year is the only figure included in the media reports is a disgrace.

    When I attend meetings where the left tries to shout down anyone who won’t drink their statist “kool aid,” it reminds me of the college days 40 years ago when the SDS and other marxist groups were running wild on college campuses. Today, these Alinsky acolytes run wild in Washington and all too many positions of power in what passes for the “news media,” the government school system (both K-12 & higher ed), and most importantly, in the courts. The far left judicial oligarchy in the Kansas Suprme Court has foisted the absurd school finance edicts (Montoy and previous rulings) that will create a future constitutional crisis at the state level that could begin as soon as the next few months. Mediation of the court latest school finance ruling may delay this process into 2014 or 2015 but this important debate has been hampered by the unwillingness of the statist institutions in this state to allow accurate information to get out to average Kansans who are too busy keeping their jobs, raising their families, and paying their bills to venture into the green eye shade financial data of Kansas government. The fact that the so called “new media,” in this state only wants to talk about base state aid and not all of the tax funds being spent is an outrage.

    Whenever someone talks to me about school funding in Kansas, I ask them “how much do you think they are spending in your school district?” When they repeat the politically correct figure of a few thousand, I tell my Wichita friends, “Well they are spending well over $600 million a year and have less than 50,000 students. Can you figure out how much spending this is per pupil per year with this information? When they express surprise at the number (>$12K), I simply refer them to the school district budget and the pages reporting all revenues and all of the various funds expenditures. There are many Kansas school districts spending more per pupil per year than Wichita too.

    Actually, Kansas spends more per pupil per year than the surrounding states. A few years ago a legislator tried to ban out-of-state enrollment in Kansas schools. That practice occurs in border areas where some Kansas schools are closer than the schools in neighboring states. Since Kansas schools receive funding on a per pupil basis the more students enrolled, the more state aid. The school lobby was successful in keeping this funding in place, even though it involved only a small number of out-of-state students.

    If there was a real news media in Kansas, there would be regular reports on the amount of taxpayer dollars being spent by school districts that are funding the school finance lawsuit. I’m not holding my breath for this important information. I believe that the cost of this litigation is now into six figures and will eventually be at least seven figures in size.

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