When talking about Kansas school spending, few Kansans have accurate information. Those with children in the public school system are even more likely to be uninformed regarding accurate figures. But when presented with accurate information about changes in school spending, few Kansans are willing to pay increased taxes to support more school spending.
Not only did Kansans underestimate school spending levels, they did for the state portion of school funding, and again for the total of all funding sources — state, federal, and local.
Many people greatly underestimated school funding. For all sources of funding on a per-student basis, 43% of poll respondents chose a number that is less than half the actual number.
For a question asking about the change in Kansas school funding over the past five years, 64% thought that funding had declined. Only 6% knew that funding had increased by over 15% during that period. The five year time period is significant, as it was in 2005 that the Kansas Supreme Court ordered additional school spending as a result of the Montoy case.
When asked about their willingness to pay higher taxes to support mores school funding, 51% said they would, if per-pupil funding was down from five years ago. But when asked whether they would pay more taxes in per-pupil funding had gone up by over 20%, only 11% said yes. According to the Kansas State Department of Education, total funding per pupil increased by 26% over this period.
Survey participants were asked if they would like to make comments regarding funding of Kansas public schools. There are 17 pages of these comments.
The results of this Kansas poll are similar to recent nationwide results discovered by EducationNext, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. That study is summarized in my post Americans uninformed about school spending, study finds.
It’s not surprising that Kansans are misinformed about the level of school spending and its changes. As I’ve shown, even members of the Kansas House of Representatives and the Wichita School Board are sometimes uninformed — or misinformed.
The school spending lobby in Kansas focuses on only one measure of school spending, base state aid per pupil. That number is approximately one-third of total school spending, and it has declined. As this poll shows, this special interest group needs to keep Kansas misinformed about the level and changes in school spending. When presented with accurate information about school spending, Kansans are not willing to pay higher taxes.