Kansas school spending: citizens again are uninformed

This week another study finds that Kansans, like most Americans, are uninformed about the level of school spending. Reaction of the education bureaucracy indicates that uninformed citizens are their preference.

The KSN Television news story Survey results fan flames in education funding feud (both print and video are available) reports on a study asking people about the amount of school spending in their state. In Kansas, few knew the correct level of spending: “No more than 10 percent could guess the correct per student spending range in Alabama, New York, Arkansas, or Kansas.” 40 percent of survey respondents in Kansas thought schools spent less than $4,000 per student. 71 percent thought the figure was $8,000 or less. The actual number is somewhere around $12,000 per student.

The survey document referred to is from The Foundation for Educational Choice, and is available at Interstate Survey: What Do Voters Say About K-12 Education in Six States?

The results of this study confirm what the Kansas Policy Institute found earlier this year in its own poll of Kansans and their knowledge of school spending. That effort found that few Kansans have accurate information about school spending. Surprisingly, the poll found that those with children in the public school system are even more likely to be uninformed regarding accurate figures. KPI also found that when presented with accurate information about changes in school spending, few Kansans are willing to pay increased taxes to support more school spending.

There are several important things Kansans should take away from the KSN news story. First, 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.

Second, the education bureaucracy in Kansas denies the reality of school spending. 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.”

This denial of the magnitude of school spending is routine by the school spending lobby and its supporters. They also do their best to exaggerate the effects of any slowdown in the rapid rate at which spending had been increasing. This was demonstrated by Rep. Melody McCray-Miller at a recent legislative forum in Wichita. She disputed the total amount of spending by the Wichita school district. Wichita board of education member Lanora Nolan disputed these same figures at a Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting. Also see Wichita schools on the funding decrease.

Finally, 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?


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