Tag Archives: Kansas Democrats

Kansas Supreme Court judicial selection

Kansas progressives and Democrats oppose a judicial selection system that is used by U.S. Presidents, both Democrats and Republicans.

What is the substantive difference between these two systems?

A) A state’s chief executive appoints a person to be a judge on the state’s highest court. Then the state’s senate confirms or rejects.

B) A nation’s chief executive appoints a person to be a judge on the nation’s highest court. Then the nation’s senate confirms or rejects.

Perhaps there is a difference that I’m not smart enough to see. I’m open to persuasion. Until then, I agree with KU Law Professor Stephen Ware and his 2007 analysis of the way Kansas selects Supreme Court judges as compared to the other states.1 That analysis concludes that “Kansas is the only state in the union that gives the members of its bar majority control over the selection of state supreme court justices.”

Ware has made other powerful arguments in favor of discarding the system Kansas uses: “In supreme court selection, the bar has more power in Kansas than in any other state. This extraordinary bar power gives Kansas the most elitist and least democratic supreme court selection system in the country. While members of the Kansas bar make several arguments in defense of the extraordinary powers they exercise under this system, these arguments rest on a one-sided view of the role of a judge.”2

Judges, Ware says, make law, and that is a political matter: “Non-lawyers who do not know that judges inevitably make law may believe that the role of a judge consists only of its professional/technical side and, therefore, believe that judges should be selected entirely on their professional competence and ethics and that assessments of these factors are best left to lawyers. In short, a lawyer who omits lawmaking from a published statement about the judicial role is furthering a misimpression that helps empower lawyers at the expense of non-lawyers, in violation of basic democratic equality, the principle of one-person, one-vote.”3

Kansas exhibits a pattern of selecting governors from alternate political parties.
Kansas exhibits a pattern of selecting governors from alternate political parties.
For Kansas progressives and Democrats to oppose Kansas adopting the same system that has enabled Barack Obama to appoint two liberal justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, with perhaps more to come — don’t they realize that Kansas will (likely) have a Democratic governor someday? As Clay Barker noted, for the last 50 years, no Kansas governor has been followed by a successor of the same party (except for Mark Parkinson filling the remainder of a term after Kathleen Sebelius resigned). If that pattern holds — and there’s no guarantee that it will — the next Kansas governor will be a Democrat, just three years from now.

Superficially, it doesn’t seem to make sense for Kansas Democrats to oppose the governor making judicial selections while supporting the President of the United States having the same power. It does make sense, however, when we realize that Kansas Democrats are comfortable with the state’s bar selecting the judicial nominees that the governor may consider. (Which gives truly useful and enjoyable bars a bad name.) Lawyers, especially lawyers that take an active role in politics, tend to be Democrats, and progressive Democrats at that. If the Kansas bar was dominated by constitutional conservatives, would Kansas Democrats feel the same?

I’m not claiming that the motives of conservative Kansas Republicans are pure. Will they change their stance on the desirability of the governor appointing Supreme Court judges if there is a Democratic governor? I don’t know, but I have a suspicion.

Defenders of the current Kansas system claim that the system is based on merit, not politics. To which we must note that this year the Kansas Supreme Court was reversed by the United States Supreme Court. It wasn’t even close, with justices voting eight to zero that the Kansas court was wrong in its application of the law. (The other Supreme Court justice said “I do not believe these cases should ever have been reviewed by the Supreme Court.)

  1. Ware, Stephen J., Selection to the Kansas Supreme Court. Fed-soc.org. Available at: http://www.fed-soc.org/publications/detail/selection-to-the-kansas-supreme-court.
  2. Ware, Stephen J., The Bar’s Extraordinarily Powerful Role in Selecting the Kansas Supreme Court (September 25, 2009). Kansas Journal of Law & Pubic Policy, Vol. 18, No. 3, p. 392, 2009. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1478660.
  3. Ware, Stephen J., Originalism, Balanced Legal Realism and Judicial Selection: A Case Study (August 3, 2012). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2129265.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita Eagle, Kansas Democrats, Kris Kobach on voting, and the minimum wage

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita Eagle labels hold a clue to the newspaper’s attitude, Kansas Democratic Party income tax reckoning, straight-ticket voting could leave some issues unvoted, and how a minimum wage hike would harm the most vulnerable workers. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 72, broadcast January 25, 2015.

Kansas Democratic Party income tax reckoning

A story told to generate sympathy for working mothers at the expense of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is based on arithmetic that is not plausible.

In the response to the State of the State Address, Senator Anthony Hensley told a tale of woe.

He said, according to the printed remarks “Take for example the single mother who works full time and lives within her means, but still struggles to provide for her family.”

That’s someone we can empathize with. And, someone who is a key Democratic Party constituent. Here’s the burden she faced under Brownback’s tax plan, according to Hensley:

“She paid $4,000 more in income taxes due to the Governor’s plan,”

When I heard him say that on television, I thought surely he had misread or misspoke. $4,000 in state income taxes is a lot of taxes. You have to have a pretty good income to have to pay $4,000 in Kansas state income taxes, much less to pay $4,000 more, as Hensely said. But $4,000 is in the prepared remarks as made available by the Kansas Democratic Party. You’d have to think that someone proofread and checked the senator’s arithmetic, wouldn’t you?

Here’s the arithmetic. According to the Kansas income tax tables for 2013, in order to owe $4,000 in tax, a person filing as single or head of household would have to have “Kansas taxable income” of $87,451. That number is after subtracting $2,250 for each exemption. Let’s say there are three exemptions, allowing for the mother and two children. That means that the person’s “Federal adjusted gross income” would be $94,201. When computing this figure, there are some “above the line” deductions from total income on the federal form 1040, but the most common deductions are after this.

So we can be quite sure that Hensley’s “single mother who works full time and lives within her means, but still struggles,” and who owes $4,000 in Kansas income tax, earns at least $94,201. In all likelihood she earned much more than that, because Hensley said she paid “$4,000 more” this year. If this fictional person saw her Kansas income tax bill rise to $6,000 from $2,000 — that’s an increase of $4,000 that Hensely used — her income would need to be $128,265. That’s before we increase it even more to account for deductions.

Of note, a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court earns $135,905. The U.S. Census Bureau has a statistic named “Median household income, 2009-2013.” For Kansas, the value is $51,332.

I’m not an income tax expert. I could be off by a little. But I’m pretty sure Anthony Hensley and the Kansas Democrats are way wrong on this.

Kansas school employment: Mainstream media notices

Row of lockers in school hallwayWhen two liberal newspapers in Kansas notice and report the lies told by a Democratic candidate for governor, we know there’s a problem. (Okay, the Kansas City Star is really a Missouri newspaper, but covers Kansas too.)

Peter Hancock wrote in the Lawrence Journal World: “Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, reportedly claimed again last week that school funding cuts under Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration have led to ‘thousands’ of teacher layoffs, a claim that has already been shown to be greatly exaggerated.” (Davis still exaggerating teacher layoff claims, March 12, 2013)

On the same day Steve Kraske of the Star reported: “Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis appears to be exaggerating the number of teacher layoffs under Gov. Sam Brownback. In an Overland Park forum last week, Davis said said that the governor’s budget cuts to education had resulted in thousands of teacher layoffs. But an annual personnel report from the state Education Department showed that a total of only 201 teachers were the victims of a ‘reduction in force’ in the 2011 and 2012 school years.” (Davis exaggerates teacher layoff figures)

None of this is news, at least to those who have been paying attention and are willing to dig into the Kansas State Department of Education for statistics. Well, the part about Paul Davis telling lies is news, as it is ongoing and contrary to the facts that Rep. Davis must surely know. (If he doesn’t know, what does that tell us?)

Kansas school employment

Last July I obtained, analyzed, and reported on Kansas school employment trends. I found that the situation is not the same in every school district. But considering the entire state, two trends emerge. For the past two years, the number of teachers employed in Kansas public schools has risen. Correspondingly, the pupil-teacher ratio has fallen.

Kansas school employment ratios

The trend for certified employees is a year behind that of teachers, but for the last year, the number of certified employees has risen, and the ratio of these employees to pupils has fallen.

There’s also a video explaining these statistics. View it below, or click here to view in high definition at Youtube.

Davis and others complain that class sizes in Kansas schools are rising. I understand that the ratio of teachers to pupils is not the same statistic as class size. They measure different things. But if Kansas schools, considered as a whole, have rising teacher and certified employment levels that leads to decreasing pupil to teacher ratio, and at the same time class sizes are increasing — we have to wonder about the management of schools.

I’ve created interactive visualizations that let you examine the employment levels and ratios in Kansas school districts. Click here for the visualization of employment levels. Click here for the visualization of ratios (pupil-teacher and pupil-certified employee).

Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.

Kansas government grows faster than private sector

graph-1In Kansas, government has grown faster than the private sector. Milton Friedman explains why it’s best to leave spending in the private sector.

For gross domestic product in Kansas attributable to government, growth was 106.0 percent from 1997 to 2012. For the private sector, growth was 86.5 percent.

The nearby chart (click for a larger version) shows Kansas (highlighted in blue) against the other states and regions. (If you’d like to use the interactive visualization of state GDP data, you may click here to open it in a new window.)

kansas-gross-domestic-product-government-private-2014-01Considering the government sector, Kansas did well, compared to other states. Considering the private sector, Kansas is average.

The green highlighted line is Michigan. That state stands out from all others for its poor economic growth. Jennifer Granholm was governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011, and Kansas Democrats have announced that she is the speaker for their annual Washington Days celebration. It’s difficult to see what Kansas can learn from Michigan regarding economic growth.

Government spending

Is it good for government to grow faster than the private economy? Government depends on the private sector for its funding. Without private sector activity, there are no taxes to collect.

But the real problem is the nature of government spending. A quote from Milton Friedman explains: “Nobody spends other people’s money as carefully as he spends his own.”

In an excerpt from Free to Choose: A Personal Statement, Friedman and his wife Rose explain the problems when people spend other people’s money, which is the nature of government spending.

A simple classification of spending shows why that process leads to undesirable results. When you spend, you may spend your own money or someone else’s; and you may spend for the benefit of yourself or someone else. Combining these two pairs of alternatives gives four possibilities summarized in the following simple table:


Category I in the table refers to your spending your own money on yourself. You shop in a supermarket, for example. You clearly have a strong incentive both to economize and to get as much value as you can for each dollar you do spend.

Category II refers to your spending your own money on someone else. You shop for Christmas or birthday presents. You have the same incentive to economize as in Category I but not the same incentive to get full value for your money, at least as judged by the tastes of the recipient. …

Category III refers to your spending someone else’s money on yourself — lunching on an expense account, for instance. You have no strong incentive to keep down the cost of the lunch, but you do have a strong incentive to get your money’s worth.

Category IV refers to your spending someone else’s money on still another person. You are paying for someone else’s lunch out of an expense account. You have little incentive either to economize or to try to get your guest the lunch that he will value most highly. However, if you are having lunch with him, so that the lunch is a mixture of Category III and Category IV, you do have a strong incentive to satisfy your own tastes at the sacrifice of his, if necessary.

All welfare programs fall into either Category III — for example, Social Security which involves cash payments that the recipient is free to spend as he may wish; or Category IV — for example, public housing; except that even Category IV programs share one feature of Category III, namely, that the bureaucrats administering the program partake of the lunch; and all Category III programs have bureaucrats among their recipients.

In our opinion these characteristics of welfare spending are the main source of their defects.

Legislators vote to spend someone else’s money. The voters who elect the legislators are in one sense voting to spend their own money on themselves, but not in the direct sense of Category I spending. The connection between the taxes any individual pays and the spending he votes for is exceedingly loose. In practice, voters, like legislators, are inclined to regard someone else as paying for the programs the legislator votes for directly and the voter votes for indirectly. Bureaucrats who administer the programs are also spending someone else’s money. Little wonder that the amount spent explodes.

The bureaucrats spend someone else’s money on someone else. Only human kindness, not the much stronger and more dependable spur of self-interest, assures that they will spend the money in the way most beneficial to the recipients. Hence the wastefulness and ineffectiveness of the spending.

But that is not all. The lure of getting someone else’s money is strong. Many, including the bureaucrats administering the programs, will try to get it for themselves rather than have it go to someone else. The temptation to engage in corruption, to cheat, is strong and will not always be resisted or frustrated. People who resist the temptation to cheat will use legitimate means to direct the money to themselves. They will lobby for legislation favorable to themselves, for rules from which they can benefit. The bureaucrats administering the programs will press for better pay and perquisites for themselves — an outcome that larger programs will facilitate.

The attempt by people to divert government expenditures to themselves has two consequences that may not be obvious. First, it explains why so many programs tend to benefit middle- and upper-income groups rather than the poor for whom they are supposedly intended. The poor tend to lack not only the skills valued in the market, but also the skills required to be successful in the political scramble for funds. Indeed, their disadvantage in the political market is likely to be greater than in the economic. Once well-meaning reformers who may have helped to get a welfare measure enacted have gone on to their next reform, the poor are left to fend for themselves and they will almost always he overpowered by the groups that have already demonstrated a greater capacity to take advantage of available opportunities.

The second consequence is that the net gain to the recipients of the transfer will be less than the total amount transferred. If $100 of somebody else’s money is up for grabs, it pays to spend up to $100 of your own money to get it. The costs incurred to lobby legislators and regulatory authorities, for contributions to political campaigns, and for myriad other items are a pure waste — harming the taxpayer who pays and benefiting no one. They must be subtracted from the gross transfer to get the net gain — and may, of course, at times exceed the gross transfer, leaving a net loss, not gain.

These consequences of subsidy seeking also help to explain the pressure for more and more spending, more and more programs. The initial measures fail to achieve the objectives of the well-meaning reformers who sponsored them. They conclude that not enough has been done and seek additional programs. They gain as allies both people who envision careers as bureaucrats administering the programs and people who believe that they can tap the money to be spent.

Category IV spending tends also to corrupt the people involved. All such programs put some people in a position to decide what is good for other people. The effect is to instill in the one group a feeling of almost God-like power; in the other, a feeling of childlike dependence. The capacity of the beneficiaries for independence, for making their own decisions, atrophies through disuse. In addition to the waste of money, in addition to the failure to achieve the intended objectives, the end result is to rot the moral fabric that holds a decent society together.

Another by-product of Category III or IV spending has the same effect. Voluntary gifts aside, you can spend someone else’s money only by taking it away as government does. The use of force is therefore at the very heart of the welfare state — a bad means that tends to corrupt the good ends. That is also the reason why the welfare state threatens our freedom so seriously.

Kansas gross domestic product

Seal of the State of KansasSince 1997, Kansas gross domestic product has grown 89.1 percent. The United States as a whole has grown 88.2 percent.

Considering compound annual rate of growth for the same period, the rate for Kansas is 4.34 percent, and for the U.S. the rate is 4.31 percent.

So the record for Kansas is right about in the middle of the states. Not good, but not bad either.


Of note: Kansas Democrats have announced their speaker for their annual Washington Days celebration. It’s Jennifer Granholm, who was governor of Michigan from 2003 to 2011. In the nearby illustration (click it for larger version) of state GDP, Kansas is highlighted in blue. The green line that stands out from all other states is Michigan.

Using the visualization.
Using the visualization.
If you’d like to use the interactive visualization of state GDP data, you may click here to open it in a new window. Data is from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis along with author’s own calculations. Visualization created using Tableau Public.

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

2013 year in review: Top 10 stories from the Sunflower State

By Travis Perry, Kansas Watchdog

OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — It’s over, done, finalized, finito. With the final days and hours of 2013 ticking to a close, we figured it’s a good time for reflection on what the last 12 months have brought the Sunflower State.

So, without further delay, Kansas Watchdog presents its Top 10 stories of 2013.

Strip Club

1. Wayward welfare dollars

An in-depth investigation into howKansans spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in government welfare money came to a shocking conclusion: a striking number of transactions appear to be going toward anything but the basic necessities. From casinos and liquor stores to smoke shops and even strip clubs, Kansas Watchdog uncovered more than $43,000 in transactions at shady ATM locations around the state. To make matters worse, all this only took place over a three-month period.

Read It:
Kansans spent welfare cash on strippers, smokes and sour mash

Video camera

2. Camera-shy state lawmakers

Fun fact: Did you know the Kansas Capitol is capable of broadcasting live video online of some of the Legislature’s most important committee meetings? Don’t beat yourself up over it. A striking number of lawmakers don’t know, either. It’s the end result of years of apathy that has led the state to be one of only 11 nationwide that do not stream some form of live video. If some kid in the middle of nowhere can attract global eyeballs with nothing more than a camera phone, what’s keeping the Kansas Legislature off the air?

Read it:
Camera shy: Kansas legislators sidestep transparency
Eye in the sky: Kansas legislative leader won’t require streaming video

3. Judicial selection gymnastics

Here’s a shocking revelation: politics sway candidate commentaries, and Kansas is no exception. Gov. Sam Brownback’s pick for the Kansas Court of Appeals is a prime example of this, after the situation prompted his Democratic gubernatorial challenger to switch sides on his stance to oppose the new nominee. And how could we forget that, in their rush to criticize the conservative governor, Kansas Democrats conveniently forgot thatKathleen Sebelius did almost the exact same thing only a few years earlier.

Read it:
Democratic leader flip-flops on Kansas judicial nominee
Partisan politics fuel Kansas Democrat’s change of heart
Kansas Democrats use double standard on judicial nomination criticism

4. Follow the money

And as long as we’re on the topic of judicial nominees, how about we turn the spotlight on a few other critics of Brownback’s decision? Namely theLeague of Women Voters and Justice At Stake, both of which claim to be nonpartisan organizations while simultaneously accepting large sums of cash from George Soros’ liberal nonprofits, the Tides Foundation and Open Society Institute.

Read it:
Soros bankrolls ‘nonpartisan’ critics of Kansas governor
‘Nonpartisan’ critic says Soros cash hasn’t caused political bias

5. Fiscal follies

Ever wonder just how much work goes into calculating the cost of a legislative proposal? Not that much, apparently. While state agencies claim they don’t pad their figures, government critics charge them with doing just that, and a close inspection of a few cost estimates only bolsters the case. Should it cost $17,000 for the state to put online a spreadsheet of data it already has? What about $20,000 for a program agency officials say could have been absorbed in-house? Yea, we thought so too.

Read it:
Fiscal follies: Kansas cost estimates draw criticism

money jail

6. Your money, behind bars

How much should Kansas spend to lock up individuals whose only crime is drug related? While lawmakers are struggling to figure out what that figure should be, the reality is that Kansas drops about $42 million annually to keep these men and women in prison. To make matters worse, state law enforcement statistics suggest it’s overwhelmingly because of Kansas continues to wage war against marijuana.

Read it:
Kansas spends millions to keep non-violent drug offenders behind bars

7. Raking-in the dough

Remember the media flurry surrounding the implosion of Hostess, one of America’s most iconic snack food manufacturers? Well here’s something you probably missed. According to the government, former employees were knocked out due to foreign trade pressure, and for that deserve extra benefits above and beyond standard unemployment insurance. But everything uncovered by Kansas Watchdog seems to point to the contrary. Curious? So were we.

Read it:
Former Hostess workers land sweet deal, taxpayers foot bill
Did foreign trade really cause Hostess’ demise?
Couch fire

8. Couch crackdown

If you’re looking for the nuttiest story of the year, look no further. The City ofLawrence, Kansas’ liberal bastion, only months ago brought us the headache-inducing mandate that city residents are not, in fact, capable of policing their own safety. Rather, officials passed a ban on front porch couches, despite the fact that local and nationwide statistics suggest it’s less of an issue than advocates would have folks believe.

Read it:
Kansas community cracks down on couches
Islam Display

9. Islamic fervor

Wichita-area school came under fire earlier this year after students and parents were greeted on the first day of school with a large display outlining the five pillars of the Islamic faith. The matter prompted emotions of all scope and size, and landed the school squarely in the national spotlight.

Read it:
Kansas lawmaker ‘appalled’ by Islamic display in school

10. Counting for attendance

The legislative session is a busy time for any elected official, but some are less (or more) busy than others, it seems. After Kansas lawmakers headed for home in June, Kansas Watchdog took an in-depth peek at how they faired in the preceding months, and what we found was jaw-dropping. In all, seven members of the House of Representatives had missed more votes than all other members of the House combined.

Read it:

Handful of Kansas lawmakers outpace all others for missed votes

Contact Travis Perry at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter at@muckraker62. Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

Kansas jobs: Who do we believe?

bownback-davis-logo-02Earlier this week we saw that candidates for Kansas governor have released statements on recent job figures in Kansas. The news releases from Sam Brownback and Paul Davis appear to contain conflicting views of Kansas employment.

But we saw that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has two monthly surveys that measure employment levels and trends. There’s the Current Population Survey (CPS), also known as the household survey, and there is also the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey, also known as the payroll or establishment survey. BLS explains: “These estimates differ because the surveys have distinct definitions of employment and distinct survey and estimation methods.”

cps-ces-jobs-compared-2013-12Both the Davis and Brownback campaign appear to cite the data correctly. So which is the better measure to use? Which gives the best indication of the performance of the Kansas economy in creating jobs?

Here’s something to consider. On the national level, a widely-watched number each month is the count of new jobs created. This number, which is universally considered to be important, comes from the CES survey. That’s the number that shows quite a bit of job growth in Kansas. But in order to belittle the Brownback effort, the Davis campaign cites the other data series.

So let’s be fair. The next time Davis and Democrats praise good job creation figures at the national level as evidence of the goodness of Barack Obama, let’s ask them to give the same credit to Sam Brownback.

Kansas Democrats on school spending

Kansas Democrats are circulating a graphic that, while probably superficially accurate, fails to present the larger picture of Kansas school spending.


The chart claims that Kansas school funding is down 19 percent since 2008. This is after adjusting for inflation, which is a good thing to do when comparing amounts of money separated in time. The Democrats, however, make calculations based on the inflation rate in fiscal year 2014. Since fiscal year 2014 started just three weeks ago, we really don’t have any idea what the rate of inflation will be.

A larger problem, however, is that Kansas Democrats use only one component of school spending to make their argument. They used base state aid per pupil as though it was the totality of school spending.

What the Kansas Democrats aren’t telling Kansans is this: Base state aid per pupil is just part of school spending, and most schools spend much more than that. Specifically, base state aid per pupil for the last school year was $3,780. But the state spent an average of $6,983 per pupil that year, which is an additional $3,203 or 84.7 percent more than base state aid. Overall spending from all sources was $12,656 per pupil. Both of the latter numbers are higher than the previous year.

It’s true that base state aid per pupil has declined in recent years. That’s a convenient fact for public school spending boosters. They can use a statistic that contains a grain of truth in order to whip up concern among the uninformed over inadequate school spending. They can cite this as an argument for increasing spending, even though spending has been rising.

(By the way, when citizens in Kansas and across the nation are asked questions about school spending, we learn they are totally uninformed. Even worse, several recent candidates for the Wichita school board were similarly uninformed. See Wichita school board candidates on spending.)

Further, citing only base state aid reduces “sticker shock.” Most people are surprised to learn that our schools spend $12,656 per student. It’s much easier to tell taxpayers that only $3,780 was spent. But that’s not a complete picture.

Also, it’s important to realize that the nature of Kansas school funding has changed in a way that makes base state aid per pupil less important as a measure of school spending. See Base state aid is wrong focus for Kansas school spending.


Here’s a table that shows the entirety of spending on public schools in Kansas. I use 2012 figures, as they are the most recent numbers that are available. (We know what base state aid per pupil is for next year, but actual spending depends on many factors that aren’t knowable in advance.)

I wonder: Why don’t Kansas Democrats tell you the whole story?

For Kansas progressives, it’s all about school spending, not performance

Once again, Kansans are subjected to a rant by Kansas House of Representatives Democratic Leader Paul Davis. On Facebook, he continually complains about the lack of funding for Kansas schools, recently writing “What do you think is more important: tax cuts for millionaires or funding for your local school?”


Here are some concepts I wish Davis would explain to his Facebook fans. This might be good practice as he considers a run for the Kansas governorship.

First, Kansas schools have increased employment.

Second, Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow far beyond what is needed for cash flow management.

Third, everyone’s taxes have been cut in Kansas.

But here’s the worst thing Kansas has done. It’s a fact that Paul Davis won’t tell you, and it’s something that is very harmful for Kansas schoolchildren: At a time when Kansas was spending more on schools due to an order from the Kansas Supreme Court, the state lowered its standards for schools.

This is the conclusion of the National Center for Education Statistics, based on the most recent version of Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales.

This project establishes a relationship between the tests each state gives to assess its students and the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test that is the same in all states. As explained in Kansas school standards and other states, Kansas standards are relatively low, compared to other states.


For Kansas, here are some key findings. First, NCES asks this question: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of reading standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”

For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):

“Although no substantive changes in the reading assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of both its grade 4 and grade 8 standards decreased.

Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its reading grade 8 assessment between 2005 and 2009, and the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased.

In other words, NCES judged that Kansas weakened its standards for reading performance.


A similar question was considered for math: “How do Kansas’s NAEP scale equivalent scores of mathematics standards for proficient performance at grades 4 and 8 in 2009 compare with those estimated for 2005 and 2007?”

For Kansas, the two answers are this (emphasis added):

“Although no substantive changes in the mathematics assessments from 2007 to 2009 were indicated by the state, the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 8 standards decreased (the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change).”

Also: “Kansas made substantive changes to its mathematics grade 4 assessment between 2005 and 2009, but the NAEP scale equivalent of its grade 4 standards did not change.”

For mathematics, NCES judges that some standards were weakened, and some did not change.

In its summary of Kansas reading standards, NCES concluded: “In both grades, Kansas state assessment results showed more positive changes in achievement than NAEP results.” For mathematics, the summary reads: “In grade 4, Kansas state assessment results showed a change in achievement that is not different from that based on NAEP results. In grade 8, state assessment results showed a more positive change.”

In other words: In three of four instances, Kansas is claiming positive student achievement that isn’t apparent on national tests.

Kansas is not alone in weakening its standards during this period. It’s also not alone in showing better performance on state tests than on national tests. States were under pressure to show increased scores, and some — Kansas included — weakened their state assessment standards in response.

What’s important to know is that Kansas school leaders are not being honest with Kansans as a whole, and with parents specifically. In the face of these findings from NCES, Kansas Commissioner of Education Diane M. DeBacker wrote this in the pages of The Wichita Eagle: “One of the remarkable stories in Kansas education is student achievement. For 10 years straight, Kansas public school students have shown improvement on state reading and math assessments.” (Thank teachers for hard work, dedication, May 27, 2011.)

A look at the scores, however, show that national test results don’t match the state-controlled tests that DeBacker touts. She controls these states tests, by the way. See Kansas needs truth about schools.

A year later a number of school district superintendents made a plea for increased funding in Kansas schools, referring to “multiple funding cuts.” (Reverse funding cuts, May 3, 2012 Wichita Eagle.) In this article, the school leaders claimed “Historically, our state has had high-performing schools, which make Kansas a great place to live, raise a family and run a business.”

These claims made by Kansas school leaders are refuted by the statistics that aren’t under the control of these same leaders.

I wonder why Paul Davis doesn’t write about these topics on Facebook.

Kansas school supporters should look more closely

Those such as Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader Paul Davis who uncritically tout Kansas schools as among the best in the nation are harming both students and taxpayers when they fail to recognize why Kansas performs well compared to other states.

Paul Davis Facebook Post, February 22, 2013

Davis recently posted on his Facebook page a quote from Geary County schools superintendent Ronald Walker: “Kansas has always performed academically in the top 10 of all states. As bills are introduced in the current Legislature without the input of educators, the state is in jeopardy of losing ground.”

Kansas does perform well compared to other states on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” Nearby is a table showing scale scores for Kansas and National Public schools for math and reading in grades four and eight. Looking at the top row, which reports scores for all students, it is the case that Kansas does better than the national average in all cases.

But if we look at the data separated by racial/ethnic subgroups, something different becomes apparent: Kansas lags behind the national average in some of these areas.

Why is there this apparent discrepancy? In general, white students perform better than black and Hispanic students. Kansas has a much higher proportion of white students than the nation. In Kansas, about 69 percent of students are white, compared to 53 percent for the entire nation.

This difference in demographic composition hides the fact that, for example, fourth grade black students in Kansas underperform the national average for black students in reading.

Some may say that it’s racist to talk about student achievement in this way. But I would ask this: Is it better to gloss over these facts, or to recognize and confront them? These details are not mere numbers on a spreadsheet. They are children.

Let’s ask Rep. Davis if he’s aware of these statistics.

Kansas and National NAEP Scores, 2011, by Ethnicity and Race

Kansas and Texas schools and low-income students

The Kansas school spending establishment is making the case that Kansas should not sink to the level of Texas in any area, especially schools. They point to various measures that, they say, show that Kansas schools are much better than Texas schools. They argue that we must increase school spending so that we don’t fall to Texas’ level.

So if you were the parent of a low-income student, or a student who is a member of an ethnic minority group, in which state would you rather have your child attend school?

The Kansas school spending establishment has an answer for that question.

But let’s look at data. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” holds some results that can be used to compare Kansas and Texas schools. That test has Kansas scoring better than Texas (with one tie) in reading and math, in both fourth and eighth grade.

But Kansas and Texas are different states, demographically. As shown in Kansas school test scores in perspective, when we look at subgroups, all the sudden the picture is different: Texas has the best scores in all cases, except for two ties. Similar patterns exist for previous years.


Kansas students score better than Texas students, that is true. It is also true that Texas white students score better than Kansas white students, Texas black students score better than Kansas black students, and Texas Hispanic students score better than or tie Kansas Hispanic students.

How can these seemingly contradictory facts all be true? The article I referenced above explains Simpson’s Paradox, which is what applies in this case.

What about low-income students in Kansas and Texas? The usual way to categorize students as low-income is if they are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. The following table shows NAEP scores for Kansas and Texas, presented by Race/ethnicity and eligibility for the lunch program.

NAEP Scores, Math and Reading, Grades 4 and 8, by Eligibility for National School Lunch Program

In the table, I shade the cells for the state with the best score. While there are ties, in no case does Kansas outperform Texas.

By the way, Texas spends less on schools than does Kansas. In 2009, Kansas spent $11,427 per student. Texas spent $11,085, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Considering only spending categorized by NCES to be for instruction purposes, it was Kansas at $6,162 per student and Texas at $5,138.

Texas also has larger class sizes, or more precisely, a higher pupil/teacher ratio. Texas has 14.56 students for each teacher. In Kansas, it’s 13.67. (2009 figures, according to NCES.)

Kansas and Texas schools, according to Kansas Democrats

As Kansas Republicans look to Texas as a role model for Kansas to follow, defenders of high levels of school spending in Kansas characterize Texas schools as inferior to Kansas schools.

A recent tweet from the Kansas Democratic Party read “Fun Texas Fact #6 for @govsambrownback: 28% of TX 4th graders read proficiently, 39th nationally. KS = 36%, 12th. #ksleg #KansasIsNotTexas”

Superficially, it looks like the Kansas Democrats might be right. Scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress, a test that is the same in all states, has Kansas scoring better than Texas (with one tie) in reading and math, in both fourth and eighth grade.

Considering only fourth grade reading, and looking at the percent reading at the “proficient” level or better, the statistics cited by the Kansas Democrats are absolutely correct.

That makes sense to the Democrats and to the school spending establishment, as Kansas, in 2009, spent $11,427 per student. Texas spent $11,085, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Considering only spending deemed by NCES to be for instruction, it was Kansas at $6,162 per student and Texas at $5,138.

Texas also has larger class sizes, or more precisely, a higher pupil/teacher ratio. Texas has 14.56 students for each teacher. In Kansas, it’s 13.67. (2009 figures, according to NCES.)

So for those who believe that spending a lot on schools is necessary for student success, Kansas and Texas NAEP scores are evidence that they’re correct in their belief.

But let us take another look at the Kansas and Texas NAEP scores. Here’s a table of 2011 scores for fourth grade reading, the subject and grade level the Democrats used. (Click on the table to open it in a window by itself.)

Kansas and Texas reading scores

Notice that when reporting scores for all students, Kansas does better than Texas. Kansas has the highest scale score, and higher percentages of students meeting each level of achievement. (The cell with the best value is shaded.)

But when we look at subgroups, all the sudden the picture is different: Texas almost always bests or ties Kansas.

Kansas students have better reading scores than Texas students, that is true. It is also true that Texas white students have better reading scores than Kansas white students, Texas black students score better than or equal to Kansas black students, and Texas Hispanic students score almost exactly the same as Kansas Hispanic students.

How can this be? How can it be that when considering all students, Kansas does better than Texas, but when looking at ethnic subgroups, the situation is mostly reversed?

The answer is Simpson’s Paradox. A Wikipedia article explains: “A paradox in which a trend that appears in different groups of data disappears when these groups are combined, and the reverse trend appears for the aggregate data.”

In this case, the confounding factor (“lurking” variable) is that the two states differ greatly in the proportion of white students. In Kansas, 68 percent of students are white. In Texas it’s 31 percent. This large difference in the composition of students is what makes it look like Kansas students perform better on the NAEP than Texas students.

But looking at the scores for ethnic subgroups, which state would you say has the most desirable set of NAEP scores?

Reaction to Kansas State of the State Address, 2013

Governor Sam Brownback delivered his State of the State Address on January 15, 2013. The as-prepared text of the address may be read here.

Americans for Prosperity-Kansas:

“Americans for Prosperity-Kansas continues to support the eventual elimination of the income tax in Kansas, and we applaud Gov. Brownback for making this a priority in 2013″” said AFP-Kansas state director Derrick Sontag. “We would support a trigger mechanism for future rate reductions in the proposal rather than legislators continuing to seek a reduction in the rate every year.

“We have no doubt that continued reductions in the income tax rate will help create economic activity, expand the tax base and create jobs.

“We’re coming off a years-long cycle in which excessive government spending stifled Kansas families and resulted in stagnant population growth, taxpayers migrating to other states, and the loss of tens of thousands of private sector jobs. The Governor said it best when he pointed out that some choose to grow spending rather than jobs.

“We look forward to working with legislators and the Governor in the coming session on other important areas of reform such as judicial selection — giving citizens of Kansas more direct input in the judges who sit on the Kansas Supreme Court and Kansas Court of Appeals. Senate confirmation or elections of judges would certainly create a more transparent process that is accountable to the people.”

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley and House Democratic Leader Paul Davis issued the following statement. Hensley is wrong about the school spending figures, as I report in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.

“Governor Brownback’s $2.5 billion dollar self-inflicted budget shortfall, a result of his irresponsible tax policy, has brought Kansas to the edge of its own fiscal cliff. He has brought Washington, D.C. politics to Kansas, and they do not belong here,” said Hensley. “Four months into office, he signed the single largest cut to public education in Kansas history. In just three school years, statewide funding for K-12 education was cut nearly $442 million, or a cut of $620 per child. It is no surprise that a three-judge panel issued its ruling last Friday that the Legislature isn’t meeting its K-12 school funding duty under the Kansas Constitution. Members of the Legislature took an oath just yesterday swearing to uphold the Constitution of Kansas. What is our oath worth if we renege on our constitutional duty to adequately and fairly fund our schools?”

The 2013 legislative session will likely be marked by three major issues: a budget deficit created by tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations, a court order to restore funding to Kansas public schools and a fundamental debate over checks and balances in Kansas.

“Democrats want to be part of the solution to this problem, but we cannot support proposals that make the gap between the rich and the middle class even wider. The most troubling part of the Brownback Agenda is the extent to which it brings Washington-style politics to Kansas. We need Kansas based solutions to our Kansas problems, which means funding for Kansas schools, lower property taxes, and proposals to create good paying jobs for middle class families,” said Davis.

Some tweets:

Someone doesn’t understand the difference between “deductible” and “refundable”:

Kansas Republicans don’t need to do this

In elections, campaigns may divert from useful discussions of the issues to engage in mudslinging and innuendo. Both parties do it, but an example from the Kansas Republican Party crosses a line and may actually hurt the candidate it was intended to help.

The mail piece targets Keith Humphrey, a Democrat challenging incumbent Republican Mike Petersen for a spot in the Kansas Senate. As described in Wichita Eagle reporting, “Democratic Senate candidate Keith Humphrey … said the Kansas Republican Party should apologize for an ad it sent to voters that questions why he changed his name and raised questions about his businesses. Citing the Internet Movie Database and online public records, the ad says ‘Keith Humphrey doesn’t want you to know about his background … or that his name hasn’t always been Humphrey.’ … Humphrey said he was born as Keith Desoto and that his name changed when he was adopted at age 11.”

The mail piece also asks voters to wonder about this: “Owns four different companies, some with no websites or phone numbers.”

These issues, if we can even dignify them with that term, have nothing to do with someone’s fitness to serve in public office. Campaigning in this way causes people to turn away from politics and civic life, bringing out the worst in our political system. Democrats do this too, with notable examples targeting Michael O’Donnell in the campaign for the August primary. These, like the anti-Humphrey piece, were not sent by the candidates themselves.

Kansas Republicans — Democrats too, for that matter — would do better to stick to actual issues related to policy when campaigning. There’s much, for example, to highlight about Humphrey that relates to policy. His campaign website’s issues page reads, in part, “The tax plan passed by Sam Brownback and our incumbent state senator increases taxes on working families while slashing funding for education and increasing taxes on working class families throughout the 28th Senate District.”

Then later: “Unfortunately, cuts to public education over the last three years have gone too far.”

Actual facts don’t support these claims, as shown in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending.

At a campaign forum in Derby, when asked about education funding and school vouchers, Humphrey cited only the base state aid per pupil figures, the same mistaken and unfactual tactics used by the education spending lobby.

Then after explaining the importance of skilled labor, he said “As far as a voucher program or something of that nature, to me it goes beyond the family right into the community, if, again if we don’t support that skilled labor base, eventually we’re going to lose one of the greatest resources we have here in south-central Kansas.” I would judge that to be non-responsive, or perhaps not understanding the topic of the question.

Finally, Humphrey was featured in a Derby Informer news story as a business owner skeptical of the Brownback tax reform’s ability to create conditions favorable for more job creation. He said that the tax reduction he expects to receive is not enough to allow him to hire another employee.

That amount is also not enough to hire, for example, a new schoolteacher, something that Humprey seems to be concerned about. The point of tax reduction is to leave more money in the productive private sector, instead of sending to an inefficient and wasteful government. As a private sector businessman, I’d think Humphrey should understand that, but evidently he doesn’t.

Kansas Democrats mailing again, and wrong again

It’s campaign season, and mail pieces are flying fast, replete with more Kansas Democratic errors.

Examples come from two mailers from the Kansas Democratic Party targeting Joseph Scapa, a one-term Republican incumbent seeking to return to the House or Representatives.

Here’s one: “SCAPA voted for the largest cut to school funding in Kansas history — schools are closing, class sizes are increasing and fees are going up on parents. Sub HB 2014 (HJ 5/12/11, p. 1570)”

This is a repeat of a mistaken claim made on other anti-Scapa mailings, for which Kansas Democrats have apologized.

Here’s something from another ant-Scapa mail piece from the Kansas Democratic Party: “The Brownback Agenda included the largest cut to public education funding in Kansas history in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.”

This claim is incorrect, too. As explained in Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending, the claims of education cuts generally consider only Kansas state spending on schools, neglecting federal and local sources of funds. In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 schools years, federal aid soared as a result of the Obama stimulus program. These funds almost made up for the decline in state spending, meaning that total spending on Kansas schools declined only slightly.

(You’d think that Kansas Democrats would want to remind us of the supposedly wonderful things the Obama stimulus accomplished, but evidently not when the facts are inconvenient.)

Then, who was Kansas governor during the years that Kansas state spending on schools actually declined? Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. They’re Democrats, I believe.

Here’s something else from a mailer from the Kansas Democrats:

JOE SCAPA is just another rubber stamp for Sam Brownback.
Instead of working to create jobs and improve education, Scapa has been nothing more than a rubber stamp for Governor Brownback’s irresponsible agenda.
*www.KanFocus.com, Republican Support Rankings

Most people don’t have access to KanFocus, a useful but expensive subscription information service. The rankings that the mailer refers to, according to KanFocus, “… show the percentage of votes on which each Representative voted with and against the majority of Republicans.”

So it’s not a measure of how closely Representatives’ votes align with Governor Brownback, but with the majority of Republicans. Oops.

Aside from that, Scapa ranked 56 out of 93 Republicans that cast votes in 2012. Then, consider that most of the Republicans who ranked “higher” than Scapa (meaning they voted less often with the Republican majority) are legislators who in most states would be Democrats.

An accurate assessment, then, of Scapa’s voting record is that he is relatively independent from the Republican majority in his voting. Which is not the same as the Brownback agenda, as the Democratic Party mailer erroneously claims.

Kansas Democrats wrong on school spending

While the Kansas Democratic Party apologized last week for misstating candidates’ voting record on two mail pieces, the party and its candidates continue a campaign of misinformation regarding spending on Kansas public schools.

Many of the allegations are made against Kansas Governor Sam Brownback for purportedly cutting school spending. An example is on the Kansas Democratic Party Facebook page, which can be seen nearby.

As part of the party’s website, on a page titled Restore Education Funding, Kansas Democrats make this claim:

An Education Fact

Between FY2008-2009 and FY2011-2012, general state aid to education was cut by nearly $400 million. In just thee [sic] years, that’s a reduction of $620 for every schoolchild in the state.

This claim is repeated on candidates’ web sites, such as this example from senatorial candidate Tim Snow, which reads: “In the last three years, conservatives in Topeka have slashed education spending by $620 per student.”

The problem is that these claims aren’t factual. Consider the numbers from the Kansas Democrat website. In 2008-2009 Kansas state spending on schools was $3,287,165,278, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. In 2011-2012, that figure was $3,184,163,559. That’s a difference of $103,001,719, which is a long way from $400 million, the number claimed by Democrats.

Looking at spending per pupil figures, the change was from $7,344 to $6,983. That’s $361, not $620 as Democrats claim.

The Democrats are also considering only Kansas state spending on schools, neglecting federal and local sources of funds. In the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 schools years, federal aid soared as a result of the Obama stimulus program. These funds almost made up for the decline in state spending, meaning that total spending on Kansas schools declined only slightly.

(You’d think that Kansas Democrats would want to remind us of the supposedly wonderful things the Obama stimulus accomplished, but evidently not when the facts are inconvenient.)

Then, who was Kansas governor during the years that Kansas state spending on schools declined? Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson. They’re Democrats, I believe.

There are more examples of Democrats misleading Kansans. Here’s Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley: “But Gov. Brownback is acting on the assumption that schools aren’t stretching every dollar to the last cent, even after he made the largest cut to public education in Kansas history.” (Dems seek input from parents, educators on impact of school funding cuts.) (emphasis added)

Paul Davis, the Kansas House of Representatives Minority Leader, was quoted in the Lawrence Journal-World as saying “Instead of hosting an online forum to complain about public schools, why not discuss all the innovative ways our teachers and administrators have done more with less since Gov. Brownback implemented the largest cut to education funding in Kansas history?” (emphasis added)

Hensley and Davis are two of the top Democrats in Kansas, absolutely so in the Kansas Legislature.

It’s easy to understand why Democrats focus on school spending. It’s easy to persuade parents — and anyone, for that matter — that if we want the best for Kansas schoolchildren, we need to spend more.

More spending in schools means more spending in largely Democratic hands, and more public sector union members, a key Democratic constituency.

The school spending advocates have done a good job promoting their issue, too. On a survey, not only did Kansans underestimate school spending levels, they did so for the state portion of school funding, and again for the total of all funding sources — state, federal, and local. Kansans also thought spending had declined, when it had increased. See Kansans uninformed on school spending. Similar findings have been reported across the country.

Spending more on schools is seen as an easy way to solve a problem. But the problems facing Kansas schools will require different approaches, and the Kansas school establishment won’t consider them. For a list of reforms that are needed, but resisted, see Kansas school reform issues.

Kansas Democrats should consider themselves fortunate that our governor isn’t pressing for the reform that Democrats really hate: school choice.

Kansas Democrats mail in error

A mailing by the Kansas Democratic Party citing the voting record of a Kansas House of Representatives candidate holds not only the usual hyperbole and spin, but also a factual error.

The mailing targets Joseph Scapa, a Republican running for re-election after serving his first term. The Democratic mailing criticizes Scapa for a vote made on the 2011 budget, claiming Scapa’s vote will harm schools. It also makes the usual claim about conservative Republicans — that they are merely rubberstamps for Kansas Governor Sam Brownback.

Excerpt from mailing from Kansas Democratic Party, incorrectly referring to a vote by Joseph Scapa.

Except: Scapa voted against the budget and the governor’s position. The mailer is wrong.

The Democrats also sent the same mailer regarding Jana Goodman. It’s wrong, too.

Unless, that is, you’re willing to believe that the list of liberal Democrats that voted the same way as Scapa are Brownback puppets and — as the mailer shouts — “failing the test on education.”

Excerpt of Journal of the Kansas House of Representatives, May 12, 2011, page 1570.

Update: The following day the Kansas Democratic Party chair apologized for the error.

Looking for Kansas school efficiency, sort of

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback started an online Kansas school efficiency task force inefficiency form. In response, Kansas House Democrats have launched a Kansas K12 efficiency survey.

The Democratic survey contains a few loaded questions that are sure to influence the responses received. For example: “Please describe – as specifically as possible – how the reduction of state public education funding has impacted you, your child, or your school directly (larger class sizes, higher fees, higher property taxes, eliminated programs, fired teachers, etc).”

First: Spending on schools in Kansas has fallen some in recent years, but just a little bit, as you can see in the chart. The question above specifically references state spending. That, as you can also see, did fall for a few years, but the difference was almost totally matched by an increase in federal spending. That fall in state spending, by the way, happened under the administration of Democratic governors.

Kansas school spending per student through 2012.

Second: The question also mentions “larger class sizes” and “fired teachers.” These are personnel issues. If we look at the ratio of students to employees, we see these ratios have changed. For a time they were decreasing, meaning that there fewer students per employee, considering either teachers only or all employees. These numbers have inched back up. But the student/teacher ratio today is still better than it was in 2005.

Kansas school student/employee ratios.

Another question reads: “Please describe – as specifically as possible – how your school has INCREASED efficiency as a result of reduced state funding.”

The use of capitalization to emphasize a specific word lets us know that only increased efficiency stories are welcome. Besides that, there’s a troubling premise in the question, that schools will look to increase efficiency only when funding is reduced. We might think that schools should always be looking for ways to increase efficiency. That lets them either operate on smaller budgets, or deliver more and better education for the same budget.

Kansas Democratic legislative leaders, however, don’t see things quite that way. They are offended by suggestions that schools aren’t operating as efficiently as possible, charging that critics are demonizing schools.

But schools can operate more efficiently. In 2010, despite claims that school spending had been “cut to the bone,” USD 259, the Wichita public school district, found a way to save $2.5 million per year by adjusting school starting times, thereby saving on transportation costs.

If we really believe that schools are underfunded, and that underfunding is harming children, why didn’t the Wichita school district look for and implement this cost-saving measure earlier? Was the threat of reduced funding the necessary impetus, as implied in the Democrats’ questions?

Surely this isn’t all that can be saved. Kansas Policy Institute looked at K-12 spending in Kansas and concluded that schools statewide are spending as much as $717 million more than is necessary, and that implementing the “best practices” of more efficient districts could eliminate the need to raise taxes or cut spending on other essential services. Volume 3: Analysis of K-12 Spending in Kansas of KPI’s series “A Kansas Primer on Education Funding” also found that, despite district claims that they are underfunded, most districts haven’t spent all of the money they received in past years.

The competing online survey forms illustrate a problem inherent with Kansas public schools that we don’t see in the private sector. Do we worry whether the grocery store is operating efficiently? No, because the grocery store faces market competition for customers and capital. But Kansas schools — because there is no effective school choice in Kansas — don’t face competition for customers in any meaningful way, and their capital is free of cost. Kansas Democrats (and their moderate Republican allies) fight against school choice to keep it that way.

We also have to wonder whether Kansas Democrats are really interested in finding school inefficiencies. Eliminating many inefficiencies will mean reducing the number of workers, and government workers are a key constituent of Democrats.

Kansas unemployment, the credit or blame

The unemployment rate in Kansas dropped from 6.2 percent to 5.9 percent in September. Before figuring who to credit for this, we ought to take a look at the underlying trends.

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback was quick to take credit, issuing the tweet “KS unemployment rate dropped to 5.9% in Sept. lowest rate since Dec. ’08.”

Jason Perkey, who is Executive Director of the Kansas Democratic Party, wanted to give the credit to President Barack Obama, as can be seen in his tweet.

Looking at the numbers behind the unemployment number, however, reveals something that I don’t think either party wants credit for: a shrinking labor force.

Todd Davidson of Kansas Policy Institute took a close look at the numbers that go into forming the unemployment rate, and here’s what he found: “The drop did not come from higher employment. 7,819 fewer Kansans were employed in September 2012 than in September 2011. The unemployment rate is lower because over 20,000 Kansans dropped out of the labor force over the last year.” More details are at Taking a Closer Look at the September Unemployment Rate.

Graphically, here’s what the situation looks like. The number of people in the Kansas labor force has been declining. When the number of employed takes a slight uptick, the unemployment rate can decline by a fairly large amount. But it’s not part of an encouraging trend.