Today’s edition of Under the Dome Today — that’s the house organ of the Kansas National Education Association (or KNEA, the teachers union) — contains a story with the headline “Anti-Government Group launches another attack on public education.”
A more accurate headline might read “School spending advocacy group refuses to acknowledge budget solution that Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis says could be used.” But that’s a tad wordy.
The headline is over a story reporting on Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert’s testimony to the Kansas House Appropriations Committee. In this testimony, according to the writer for the teachers union, Trabert “gave a presentation attacking the K-12 education system.”
KPI has found that Kansas schools are sitting on fund balances of some $700 million that could be used to make it through a tough budget year. Using these funds could let schools operate without making cuts to their budgets, and without increasing taxes or finding “revenue enhancements.”
School spending advocates dispute this. But Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis agrees with Trabert that these fund balances could be used — if the schools wanted to.
Schools, however, would rather find additional sources of revenues. Everyone else calls these taxes.
Chief school spending lobbyist Mark Tallman of the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) argued, according to the report, “many of the funds Trabert labels reserves are restricted or necessary to cover costs before government payments are received.”
That’s true. But this argument, just like a faulty op-ed written by Kansas school board member David Dennis, says nothing about whether the balances in these funds are too high, too low, or just right.
The evidence we do have — uncovered by KPI — tells us that the balances in these funds are more than needed. That’s because they’ve been growing rapidly, by 53 percent over the last four years. The only way the fund balances can grow is if schools aren’t spending the money as fast as it’s going in the funds.
Mentioning facts like this somehow, according to the Kansas teachers union, constitutes an attack on public schools.
Here’s a question that Kansans should insist that school spending advocates like the Kansas teachers union and the Kansas Association of School Boards answer: Why did all school districts in Kansas except four declined to participate in efficiency audits last year? That’s an attack on the Kansas taxpayer, and also on Kansas schoolchildren who aren’t benefiting from the inefficiencies these audits could reveal.