Kansas citizens lack knowledge about school spending

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.

These are part of the findings of a poll released today by Kansas Reporter, a project of the Wichita-based Kansas Policy Institute.

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.

The survey was conducted by The Research Partnership, Inc., a Wichita-based market research firm. The complete results may be viewed at the Kansas Reporter website at K-12 Public Opinion Survey.

Survey participants were asked if they would like to make comments regarding funding of Kansas public schools. There are 17 pages of these comments.

Analysis

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.


17 thoughts on “Kansas citizens lack knowledge about school spending”

  1. USD 259 (Wichita) public schools spend over $600 million a year and have an enrollment of less than 50,000 students. Geeeee, it must be really hard to figure out that this is over $12,000 per pupil per year.

    Over 13 years, for a k-12 education, that translates into a very substantial amount of spending too. I don’t know why the daily newspapers and broadcast news media in Kansas cannot find reporters who can provide this basic information. Most of the reporters will only discuss spending per pupil under extreme duress and then they babble about “…base state aid…” of less than $5,000 per year.

  2. District employees (259) I know say the school-level impact of budget cuts will not be nearly as dire as we were all led to believe they would be. Lots of cuts are being made downtown–exactly where cuts should be.

    There have been plenty of comments both here and at kansas.com regarding in-service day cuts. If taxpayers only knew what some of these in-service days teach our teachers! The one this past Monday was about how white people are born privileged in this country. So if that’s true, then the converse must be true too: Those who are born non-white in this country are unprivileged or under-privileged. Modern psychology has taught us all much about self-fulfilling prophecies, and as long as we continue to teach this bilge to our teachers, who pass it along to our children, how can we expect to lift minorities out of poverty? It’s like calling a kid dumb: You do it enough times and he starts believing it. When does diversity training become psychological abuse?

  3. Define “cuts being made downtown” please.

    From what I have heard from sources very close to Superintendent Allison, around $10 million could be cut in the “downtown” category. That still leaves $15 million PLUS to be cut from classrooms.

    All of this is because the Legislature will not do their constitutional duty.

    Teacher cuts are coming, that is pretty well assured.

    kimpot54, I also heard about the in-service activity you referred to above. That was a building based decision, not a district-wide activity. I do agree that it could be a questionable topic to waste a day that could be used for student instruction.

  4. Kerr,

    I am not a teacher but I have been a manager and I can’t imagine it to be a complex matter to determine which teachers are succeeding in their profession versus those who are falling short. I believe we can all agree that not every person with a teaching certificate is qualified to teach. This is a reality in every profession. In our society the key is to allow individuals to align themselves with tasks which best suit their strengths. In those cases where they are misaligned it is in everyone’s best interest to redirect that individual’s skills. Without investing a great deal of thought into the matter of teacher evaluations I would consider these to be an example of measurable and meaningful criteria:

    1. Does the instructor have the respect of the class?
    2. Do the students feel comfortable contributing to classroom activities?
    3. Does the teacher present the subject matter in a multitude of disciplines to engage different learners?
    4. Is the instructor prepared each day with lessons and assignments?
    5. Does the teacher show enthusiasm for their material?

    I could go on, but I’m optimistic that you see that it is possible to evaluate a teacher’s progress.

  5. You are correct, Kip. There are good and bad teachers, just as there are good and bad performers in every field of human endeavor.

    Teachers unions are opposed to subjective evaluation of teachers, partly because they claim that administrators will favor or disfavor teachers for political, personal, or other reasons not related to classroom performance.

    There may be some reason to give credence to this claim. In the private sector, businesses have incentive to keep high-performing employees even though management may disagree with the employee’s politics, or their appearance, or whatever. That’s because high-performing employees are good for profitability.

    But government schools, with no need to earn a profit and therefore no market discipline, have little incentive to separate good and bad performers. There’s little consequence in getting rid of good teachers, and little penalty for retaining bad teachers.

    This is all the more distressing as it is becoming evident that teacher quality is the most important factor that is within the control of schools in determining student achievement. Far more important than class size or teacher credentials. I refer you to here for more:

    http://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/wichita-public-school-districts-path-not-fruitful/

  6. Kip

    How can you quantify any of your alleged criteria?

    Let’s look at your first question. How exactly does one define “respect”? Is “respect” the same in a primary class as it might be in a Sr. Government class? Who gets to answer this question? If you say a student, will a student who earns a “D” give the same response as an “A” student? Can a Kindergarten student even comprehend a question of this complexity?

    It is obvious that you real don’t understand the educational process and the extreme difficulty in measuring teacher effectiveness.

    Of course you can be a good sheeple and just jump on the Bob Weeks bandwagon and blame the unions. Ensuring due process rights is SO unAmerican!

  7. Hi, being the offspring of two teachers, I have an interesting perspective on “in-service days”. Back in the 1950’s, my Dad’s school in Illinois pushed to have a paid day after between final exams and the last day of school so that the teachers could go over their records, grade exams, and generally finish things out. They got their way, and within two years the principal decided that well, they’re all here and I don’t have anything to do, so we’ll have a meeting. in another year the Superintendent pulled the same stunt. Now in-service days are for indoctrination (at best) and otherwise worthless meetings instead of for productive work. The teachers are back to grading finals at night. (Wichita doesn’t have finals unless you are absent a lot. My son took one final exam in 4 years of high school and yes he graduated.)

    Later

    Mike
    Wichita KS

  8. Bob et al,
    The political variable in teacher evaluation has been a problem in the past and likely still is today. My mother who taught 7th & 8th grade history and world geography at Coleman during the switch from jr high to middle school was on the receiving end of that. Stuart Berger has made it clear that “old school” teachers needed to be weeded out, as they were resistant to change. My mother, who had always received good to excellent evaluations from principals, was suddenly given a poor evaluation by one of Berger’s minions. (Ironically, this principal was drummed out of 259 within the past decade.) The union went to bat for her and was able to get the evaluation changed. So politics can play a role in this, especially since principals are always watching their own backs as a result of the politics in vogue in downtown district offices.

    I know of a current district teacher who speaks ebonics in his classroom and has actually paid (bribed) students to get them to pass the state assessments. He still has a job, because all of his students pass the state assessments. I also know of another teacher who struggles, because she knows there are certain things she should be teaching her kiddos to make them well-rounded and well-educated people. But because she doesn’t bribe her students or teach only what’s on the test, all of her students do not pass the assessments.

    Now, if that’s not a description of corruption within the system, I don’t know what is.

  9. I would ask for recomendations from the teachers union. Whomever they recomended I’d fire and whomever they wanted dismissed I’d keep.

  10. How much of that “increase in funding” that you are counting is actually dollars that go to KPERS? Money that schools do not even have access to, but is counted in their overall budget? Or what about money that is specifically earmarked for special education or Title I that schools cannot spend elsewhere even if they’d choose to? Yes the overall funding amounts sounds extremely high, but when you take away the money that schools don’t even have access to, it’s not the big number you portray.

  11. Kerr,

    I never said the task of evaluating a teacher was easy. I simply believe it can and must be done. If I understand you correctly you’re saying that a teacher’s work is so dependent on variables outside their control that it is impractical if not impossible to accurately assess their abilities. As a result, evaluations must be based on concrete criteria such as length of time spent teaching, certificates and degrees obtained and personal attendance to name just a few. Am I following your logic?

  12. When my son was in second grade he had a teacher who did not like to teach boys. Because he preferred to be outdoors over classroom work and would not pay attention in class, she put him in the hall every day for months and did not let us, his parents, know there was a problem. Unfortunately, she had tenure and could not be corrected or fired. She was there several years more doing the same kind of thing until she retired. Boys’ parents in the know took their kids out of her class either going to private school or another classroom. I ask you, how hard would it be to objectively judge or quantify that kind of performance?

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