Kansas public school teachers and the education bureaucracy want taxpayers to trust them as a reliable source for facts about Kansas schools. But the record doesn’t inspire trust.
At a recent meeting of the South-Central Kansas Legislative Delegation with citizens, teachers jeered when a legislator cited the spending numbers for USD 259, the Wichita public school district. A comment left to a KAKE TV news story claims that spending numbers presented by the legislator are “misrepresented,” because he included every single dollar. In fact, the numbers presented were correct, as explained in In Kansas, don’t mention the level of school spending.
The writer seems to believe that “bond money” shouldn’t count as school spending. This is a common stance taken by public school spending boosters. They argue that spending on buildings, or perhaps on teacher pension costs, shouldn’t count as money spent educating students.
Part of the reason for this deflection is that when people learn the true level of school spending, they’re usually astonished at how much is spent. So the school spending lobby has to explain — rather, make excuses for — the high level of spending. Recently Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) recommended Kansans ignore employee pension costs and the costs of buildings and equipment. Here’s how KASB explained this as part of a document titled Questions about recent Kansas Policy Institute survey:
Finally, districts received $690 per pupil in KPERS contributions for district employees, and districts spent $2,320 for capital costs such as buildings and equipment, payments on construction bonds for new schools, and other local revenues like student fees. None of these funds — almost 25 percent of total revenues — can be spent for regular education operating costs.
Should teacher pension costs and the cost of buildings and equipment be included in school spending? Of course — unless you’re arguing for more school spending.
The comment writer also claimed that lawmakers have “cut education funding consistently.” As shown on the nearby chart, it’s true that spending on Kansas schools, on a per-pupil basis, fell slightly for two years running. It then rose a small amount last year. Spending from all sources, individually and collectively, is much higher than ten years ago. I don’t see how you can make an argument for consistent cutting — unless you decide to ignore parts of spending.