Education

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy Alan Cobb, Kansas Chamber President & CEO The words of a recent guest editorial in the Lawrence Journal-World about the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding were not surprising. It was a continuation of the intellectually shallow, fact-short screed about taxes, school finance, and the Kansas budget. Certainly, reasonable people can disagree about these issues, but partisans rarely adhere to that theorem. And thus, I thought I was reading something from a partisan staffer. Alas, it was from a well-respected Wichita State University professor emeritus who I have known for decades. I’ve not always agreed…
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Tax benefits for education don’t increase education

Tax benefits for education don’t increase education

Here's evidence of a government program that, undoubtedly, was started with good intentions, but hasn't produced the intended results. Tax season ended last week. Taxpayers have filed for over $30 billion in credits and deductions for college expenses they paid in 2017. Evidence now clearly shows that these credits have zero effect on college attendance. The tax credits surely make those who get them better off, but they do nothing to increase education. If their intent is to increase schooling, they are a failure. Continue reading at The Brookings Institution article The tax benefits for education don’t increase education.
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NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations

NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations

When properly considered, Kansas often underperforms the nation in the most recent assessment of "The Nation's Report Card." The results for the 2017 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, were recently released. I've prepared interactive visualizations of some of the results. To access the visualizations, click on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). When considering NAEP results, it's important to consider subgroups, such as race/ethnicity and school lunch status, which is a proxy for poverty. It's important because states vary widely in the composition of subgroups. For example, consider an accompanying example from the visualization. We…
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Kansas and Iowa schools

Kansas and Iowa schools

Should Kansas schools aspire to be more like Iowa schools? The Kansas Association of School Boards lists Iowa as an "aspirational" state, that is, one that Kansas should consider a role model. I've gathered some data from both states. The United States Census Bureau collects data from the states as part of its Annual Survey of School System Finances program. [1. U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances. Available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html.] Data is available through fiscal year 2015. The National Education Association also gathers data. [2. National Education Association. Rankings of States and Estimates of School Statistics. Available…
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Colorado and Kansas schools

Colorado and Kansas schools

A writer claims that Colorado schools are well-funded, while Kansas schools are not. From the Wichita Eagle Opinion Line: The economy of our neighbor, Colorado, is growing fast. New residents cite that state’s well-funded schools as a key reason. Meanwhile in Kansas, Susan Wagle says our public schools don’t deserve an extra nickel of help from legislators." [1. Wichita Eagle, Opinion Line, March 29, 2018.] First, thinking like this ignores and disrespects the sacrifice Kansans make to fund our schools. This is a problem with government funding. The recipients rarely say "thank you" to those who provide the funding --…
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Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?

Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?

Is the state's leading expert on school funding truly knowledgeable, or is he untrustworthy? Recent events have found Kansas Department of Education’s Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis in the news regarding a possible mistake or misapplication of school funds. The school spending establishment has rushed to his rescue, with Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents Association, and American Federation of Teachers Kansas issuing a joint statement. Dale Dennis, says the statement, is "the best friend public education and the kids of Kansas have had." He is described as "the most…
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Wichita school student/teacher ratios

Wichita school student/teacher ratios

During years of purported budget cuts, what has been the trend of student/teacher ratios in the Wichita public school district? When discussing school funding, there is controversy over how spending should be measured. What funds are included? Is KPERS included? Should we adjust for enrollment and inflation? What about bond and interest funds and capital outlay? The largest expenditures of schools -- some 80 percent nationwide -- is personnel costs. In Kansas, and Wichita in particular, we're told that budget cuts are causing school class sizes to increase. When we look at numbers, we see that the USD 259, the…
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Wichita public school district transparency

Wichita public school district transparency

Transparency issues surrounding the Wichita public school district are in the news. There are steps that are easy to make, but the district resists. It's difficult to view a meeting of the Wichita school board. If you -- perhaps a taxpayer to USD 259 -- would like to watch a meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, your options are few. You can attend the meetings in person. Or, if you subscribe to certain cable television systems, you can view delayed repeats of the meetings. But that's it. Live and archived video of governmental meetings…
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Kansas school fund balances

Kansas school fund balances

Kansas school fund balances rose this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil. As Kansans debate school funding, as the Kansas Supreme Court orders more school spending, and as schools insist that spending has been slashed, a fact remains: Kansas schools don't spend all the money they've been given. Unspent fund balances grow in many years, and grew this year. Fund balances are necessary for cash flow management. They buffer the flows of receipts and expenditures. The issue is what levels of balances are necessary, and, more importantly, how the balances change over years. In Kansas, school districts…
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From Pachyderm: Wichita school board candidates

From Pachyderm: Wichita school board candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: A forum of candidates for Wichita school board. Recorded June 16, 2017. At the lectern is Pachyderm Board Member Todd Johnson who moderated the forum. The eight candidates in attendance were from left to right, Betty Arnold and Ben Blankley for District 1; Julie Hedrick and Trish Hileman for District 2; Mike Rodee for District 5; and Walt Chappell, Shirley Jefferson, and Ron Rosales for District 6. All of these candidates plus two candidates who could not attend today's forum will move forward to the November 7, 2017, General Election. In school district elections, all…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko, Kansas Policy Institute

WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko, Kansas Policy Institute

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn. Topics are the new Kansas school finance bill and the new tax bill. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 153, broadcast June 11, 2017. Shownotes Kansas Policy Institute SB 19, the new school finance plan SB 30, the new tax bill Kansas Freedom Index Archives of voting indexes from Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn
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Explaining the Kansas budget, in a way

Explaining the Kansas budget, in a way

A video explaining the Kansas budget is accurate in many aspects, but portrays a false and harmful myth regarding school spending. A popular video explaining the Kansas budget deserves scrutiny for some of the data presented. The video is available at the Facebook page of Loud Light. The presentation makes a few good points. For example, the video is correct in that the sales tax is a regressive tax, affecting low-income households in greater proportion. During the capaign for a Wichita city sales tax in 2014 I analyzed Census Bureau data and found that the lowest income class of families…
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Shocking News about Kansas Education!

Shocking News about Kansas Education!

By Paul Waggoner. This column first appeared in the Hutchinson News. Listening too often to Topeka politicians and administrators can leave a normal person feeling rather jaded, even used. Or maybe it’s the reporting, sometimes I just don’t know. Such was the case Tuesday reading the News report of Kansas Dept of Education Deputy commissioner Dale Dennis speech to the local Rotary club (Hutchinson News, April 18, “Ed Official: Fund Gap numbers shocking”). His talk was filled with boilerplate and themes typical of the education establishment. Mr. Dennis made multiple comparisons and statements of fact to prove his points. In…
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Fake government spawns fake news

Fake government spawns fake news

Discussions of public policy need to start from a common base of facts and information. An episode shows that both our state government and news media are not helping. A recent Hutchinson News article[3. Clarkin, Mary. Department of Education’s Dennis: Shocking number when looking at funding gap. Hutchinson News. April 17, 2017. http://www.hutchnews.com/news/local_state_news/department-of-education-s-dennis-shocking-number-when-looking-at/article_4abe359e-8421-53f9-a8d7-1eaa56e95423.html.] started with this: Once you wake up to where Kansas was in 1992 at funding schools and what it needs to do to get caught up, said the Kansas Department of Education’s Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis, it’s a shocker. In 1992, base state aid per pupil was…
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Kansans are concerned about the level of state spending on schools

Kansans are concerned about the level of state spending on schools

A public opinion poll asks whether Kansans are concerned about school spending, but leaves us wondering why they are concerned. A public opinion poll commissioned by Kansas Center for Economic Growth asks questions so vague that the results could be interpreted in many ways. The March 30, 2017 press release on the poll announced: "Nearly all Kansas voters are worried the state is not investing enough public education. Eighty-five percent of Kansas voters feel concerned about the state’s level of spending on public education."[1. Kansas Center for Economic Growth. New statewide poll shows overwhelming support for rollback of Brownback tax…
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Wichita student/teacher ratios

Wichita student/teacher ratios

Despite years of purported budget cuts, the Wichita public school district has been able to improve or maintain student/teacher ratios. When discussing school funding, there is controversy over how spending should be measured. What funds are included? Is KPERS included? Should we adjust for enrollment and inflation? What about bond and interest funds and capital outlay? The largest expenditures of schools -- some 80 percent nationwide -- is personnel costs. In Kansas, and Wichita in particular, we're told that budget cuts are causing school class sizes to increase. When we look at numbers, we see that the Wichita school district…
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Wrong direction for Wichita public schools

Wrong direction for Wichita public schools

A letter in the Wichita Eagle illustrates harmful attitudes and beliefs of the public school establishment. The letter is titled "Wrong direction." It was submitted by John H. Wilson, was published on February 26, 2017, and may be read here. What's wrong in this letter? Here's one thing: "First, the ill-founded assertion is that parents are well equipped to identify the best school for their children. Wrong." This is an incredibly bigoted assertion. This is one of the standard arguments against school choice, that parents -- particularly minority and low-income families -- don't have the ability to make wise choices…
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WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute

WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: James Franko of Kansas Policy Institute joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn to discuss education in Kansas and the state budget. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 141, broadcast March 5, 2017. Shownotes Kansas Policy Institute The Sentinel Urban Preparatory Academy
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State and local government employee and payroll

State and local government employee and payroll

Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education. When considering all state and local government employees, Kansas spent $254 per person on payroll (March only).[1. For total payroll (both full-time and part-time employees), the Census Bureau reports a value for a single month, that being March.] This was 15th highest among the states, District of Columbia, and the nation as a whole. There were 14.9 citizens for each FTE (full-time equivalent employee), which ranks fourth highest. In other words, Kansas has many government employees compared…
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Kansas state school assessments

Kansas state school assessments

An interactive presentation of Kansas state school assessment scores at the state, district, and building levels. Kansas State Department of Education makes available school assessment results at its website Kansas Building Report Card, available at ksreportcard.ksde.org. The present assessments were first given in 2014, although results for that year were not made available.[1. Kansas State Board of Education. Agenda Packet for July 2014. http://www.ksde.org/Portals/0/Board/Materials%20&%20Agendas/2014/JULY%20BOARD%20PACKET%20rfs.pdf.] KSDE background explains that scores on the tests are categorized in four levels: "Kansas assessment results are now reported in four levels. Level 1 indicates that student is not performing at grade-level standards. Level 2 indicates…
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