Claims that reduced school funding have harmed Kansas schools — especially school employment — are overblown, if we care to look at actual numbers.
First, this past school year set a record for spending on schools in Kansas.
Second, schools have been able to maintain student/employee ratios. Consider USD 259, the Wichita public school district. As the chart shows, student/employment ratios were falling, but have leveled. This is true when looking at all employees, or just employees the school district classifies as “instructional.” (Data is from USD 259 Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.)
In the case of Wichita schools, the students/instruction employee ratio fell from 10.68 for the school year ending in 2001 to 8.68 for 2011. This is a drop of 18.7 percent.
Considering all employees, the change over the same time was a drop of 12.5 percent.
Falling student/employment ratios mean that there are more employees per student. This might manifest itself as smaller class sizes, or more support personnel, or more janitors. It’s up to each school district to decide.
But when school districts — and school spending advocates — claim that schools are moving backwards, it’s not true. Student/employee ratios are simply not falling as they once were. If the ratios were worsening, the lines would be trending upwards. But they’re not.