Kansas school efficiency task force

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has been criticized for the composition of a school efficiency task force that he recently created.

Accountants dominate the membership. Critics wonder why there aren’t any educators as members. I would remind these critics that educators — those already running the Kansas public school system — are free to implement efficiency measures any time they want. They don’t need permission or a task force.

We’ve seen, however, that efficiency and controlling spending are hardly the concerns of the school spending establishment. The standard argument — or complaint — is that more spending is needed. Everything is underfunded, according to them.

The school spending establishment isn’t willing to have an honest discussion of school spending. They present base state aid per pupil as the primary benchmark or indicator of school spending, despite the fact that it is only a small part of the Kansas school spending formula and disguises the overall level of spending. Which is that in 2012, Kansas schools spent more money than ever before.

There’s also been the controversy over school fund balances. An outside group brought this issue to the attention of Kansans, and the school spending establishment resisted at every step. Just recently it was discovered that there were errors in the tabulation of Kansas school test scores. An outside group discovered this error, too.

Kansas school districts have also been reluctant to participate in school efficiency audits conducted by Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit.

We further find that citizens are generally uninformed about the level of school spending. Amazingly, legislators and school board members are sometimes uninformed or misinformed, too.

Even worse, school administrators contribute to the confusion — or is it obfuscation — surrounding school spending. A KSN Television news story reported that Newton school superintendent John Morton thinks it is “a real concern” when citizens have access to data about government spending. This is a common reaction by government bureaucrats and officials. They prefer to operate without citizen scrutiny.

Furthermore, according to the KSN story: “[Morton] says although numbers may say schools receive $12,000 per student, only about $4,000 makes its way to daily student learning.”

It’s astonishing that of the roughly $12,000 that Kansas schools receive for each student, only $4,000 — according to Morton — makes its way to “daily student learning.”

May I ask: Where does the other $8,000 go?

These are the types of questions for which the school efficiency task force may seek answers. The school spending establishment has had its chance, and it has failed to even notice the problem.


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