Kansas school spending lawsuit possible

Here’s some material from “Under the Dome Today” for May 29, 2009. This is a publication of the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA, the teachers union).

According to press reports, Schools for Fair Funding — the Montoy school lawsuit finance districts — is examining the possibility of re-opening the school finance lawsuit because of the cuts to education that were made by the 2009 legislature.

John Robb, one of the two attorneys who represented the original group of districts in the suit, said, “The $755 million was almost like a court-ordered settlement, and now the Legislature is going backwards.”

While no decision has been made as of right now, the plaintiffs have been meeting to discuss their options. Robb maintains that while the state is constitutionally prohibited from deficit spending, it is also constitutionally required to provide for education.

Cuts enacted by the 2009 legislature have put base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) at just $27 over the 2005-06 school year when the lawsuit was settled.

Judging by this material, it might seem like schools are in bad shape financially, what with spending per student increasing by just $27 over three years.

But when you look at the total spending picture of Kansas schools, you get a different picture.

During the 2005-06 school year, total spending by Kansas public schools was $4,689,294,566, or $10,596 per student.

For the just-competed school year, 2008-09, total spending is estimated at $5,623,881,398, or $12,554 per student.

That’s an increase of $1,958 per student. That’s 18.5%. You have to consider just a portion of spending — base state aid per pupil — to arrive at just a $27 increase in spending.

It’s not uncommon for the school spending lobby and its supporters to do what they can to hide the magnitude of spending on schools. They’ll also do their best to exaggerate the effects any slowdown in the rapid rate at which spending has 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.


2 thoughts on “Kansas school spending lawsuit possible”

  1. I have always wondered where the money is going if the government is spending $10,596 per student.

    Based on a educated guess from what utilities cost per person in an average home, I’d say $900 a year for each student for utilities per year would be a generous amount.

    If a teacher makes $30,000 a year, and the average class is 30 children, each child’s portion to pay that teacher is $1,000. Let’s add another $1,000 for those specialty teachers like band directors, art teachers, librarians and teachers’ aids.

    The price of riding the bus and paying a driver, using the City of Wichita City Bus rates for a semester pass, would equal $230 per student.

    Of course the tax payers are always on the hook for maintenance, improvements and repairs so let’s give that a nice generous amount of $1,000 per student.

    Secretaries, bookkeepers, cooks and other essential administration should cost each student no more than half what the cost of the teachers do. So I’ll figure it at $500.

    Then of course we have computer equipment and projectors and stuff like that. Let’s see, a room full of computers, shared with six classes a day, for 30 kids per class at $1,500 a piece annually would make the per pupil charge $250 a year. That’s if the school buys all new computers and everything every year.

    These come to a grand and reasonable total of $4880 per student for the essentials of an education. I’m sure I missed a few things, but I’m also sure my numbers are somewhat generous in terms of the real world. I seriously doubt that I have missed more than half of the things a student is “billed” for.

    I’d like to know where the rest of the $10,596 per student goes ($5,716). Because it seems to me that some one HAS to be totally mismanaging funds somewhere or everywhere. It would require access to a lot of “secret” files to come up with the actual number of price per pupil, as opposed to an inflated one that doesn’t make tax payers feel so guilty they agree to a ridiculously inflated tax. So I chose to use numbers from just average, day to day life. What ARE they doing with the taxpayers money really?

  2. Many teachers make closer to $45K a year, but there’s still a lot of money unaccounted for. (Even teachers wonder where all the money goes.) You also must factor in the “bridge” at least in Wichita that many teachers continue to collect when they retire “once their numbers add up,” even though they aren’t close to 65. But, I’m not begrudging good teachers what they’re due. Too much of what our tax dollars finance, though, is hierarchy in Topeka and at the local level, and that’s what I do have a problem with. Much of what the hierarchy does is what good teachers can do themselves at the local level–and likely do a better job of it.

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