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.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Author and former Wichitan Shari Howard McMinn discusses her new book on adoption and her experiences with homeschooling. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 152, broadcast June 4, 2017.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas Policy Institute Dave Trabert joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn to discuss the Kansas economy, budget, and schools. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 149, broadcast April 30, 2017.
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 in schools for their children. Instead, an educated elite, of Wilson is a member, must make these decisions, they say.
There is a whif of plausibility in Wilson’s claim. In Wichita, where there is no school choice except for a small tax credit scholarship program, parents don’t have much experience making decisions regarding schools for their children. Across the country, however, where parents are given choices, we see parents becoming involved. With school choice programs, parents have a chance to make a difference.
Here’s something else that is rich in irony. With school choice, Wilson says, “Public schools organization and management would become a nightmare.” The private sector, however, manages situations like this every day. The irony is that the fleet of public school administrators hold many advanced degrees in public school administration. But school choice, evidently, is too complicated to manage.
Finally, Wilson references “a highly successful and proud institution, our public schools.” I’d like to call his attention to the nearby chart of results from the Kansas school assessments for the Wichita school district. According to the Kansas State Department of education, “Level 2 indicates that the student is doing grade-level work as defined by the standards but not at the depth or level of rigor to be considered on-track for college success. Level 3 indicates that the student is performing at academic expectations for that grade and is on track to being college ready.”
Looking at fourth grade reading — a very important benchmark — we see that considering college-level readiness, 35.5 percent of students are at that standard. But only 17.6 of African-American students are at that level, and 29.7 percent of Hispanic students. The performance is worse for math, and worse again at eighth grade for both subjects.
I don’t think this is “highly successful,” and I don’t see how Wilson is proud of this legacy. Except: He’s part of the public school establishment, which vigorously protects itself from any meaningful competition.
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.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Co-host Karl Peterjohn joins Bob Weeks to discuss a few big developments in Kansas politics, school choice, and civil asset forfeiture. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 136, broadcast January 29, 2017.
Critics of school choice say there is no accountability outside the traditional public schools. Here are the standards Kansas used to hold its schools accountable.
Are non-traditional public schools held properly accountable? Do charter schools and private schools escape the accountability standards states use for their traditional public schools, particularly in Kansas?
A standard argument against school choice is that charter schools and private schools are not held accountable. Underlying this argument is the assumption that parents have neither the time nor technical expertise to properly evaluate the schools their children attend. Only those with special training can do this, goes the argument.
This argument is troubling because it is often directed at parents of minority children, or parents who are from low-income households, or parents who may not be highly educated. Besides being elitist and bigoted, it doesn’t recognize the poor job that Kansas state education officials have done holding public schools accountable. Fortunately, Kansas school officials have corrected this, but it doesn’t make up for the years that Kansas purposefully used low standards to evaluate students, and told us students were doing well.
For years Kansas schools have used low standards to evaluate students. That is, Kansas was willing to say students are “proficient” at a much lower level of performance than most other states. Worse than that, during the 2005 to 2009 time period, Kansas actually weakened its standards.1 Coincidentally, this was during the time that Kansas courts ordered more spending in Kansas schools, and the legislature generally complied.
The new Kansas standards, however, are more in line with those of other states, and present a more truthful assessment of Kansas schoolchildren.
This is the finding of the EducationNext report After Common Core, States Set Rigorous Standards.2 EducationNext is a scholarly journal published by the Hoover Institution and the Harvard Program on Education Policy and Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School that is committed to careful examination of evidence relating to school reform.
The report compares the proportion of students considered “proficient” on states’ own exams with that of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” The EducationNext report explains:
Data from both the NAEP and state tests allow for periodic assessments of the rigor of each state’s proficiency standards. If the percentage of students identified as proficient in any given year is essentially the same for both the NAEP and the state exams, we can infer that the state has established as strict a proficiency standard as that of the NAEP. But if the state identifies a higher percentage of students as proficient than the NAEP, we can conclude that the state has set its proficiency bar lower than that of the NAEP.
From 2003 to 2013 the Kansas standards were weak, earning letter grades ranging from “C” to “D” in the EducationNext reports. In another similar study, the Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto NAEP Scales series from National Center for Education Statistics, Kansas standards were also found to be low compared to other states. NCES is part of the United States Department of Education and the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education. It has not yet examined the 2015 NAEP and state exam scores.
Now, after comparing Kansas state assessments to the 2015 NAEP exam, Kansas earns a grade of “A” from EducationNext for the strength of its standards.
This grade of “A” does not reflect the performance of Kansas schoolchildren on tests. Instead, it means that the state has raised the definition of proficient to a higher level. A presentation by Kansas State Department of Education to the Kansas State Board of Education explains the relationship of the new standards to the former:
The Kansas College and Career Ready Standards are more rigorous than the previous Kansas Standards. The Mathematics test is more demanding than even the ACT and taken a year earlier. The assessment is also more demanding than the NAEP assessment. Kansas takes seriously the current issues of college dropout and remediation rates and feels higher standards are necessary to help remedy the problem.3 4
Kansas is not alone in making a change, according to the EducationNext report:
The results are striking: The last two years have witnessed the largest jump in state standards since they were established as part of the federal accountability program. Overall, 36 states have strengthened their standards since 2013, while just 5 have loosened them, and 7 have left their standards essentially unchanged.
This is a refreshing change for Kansas. It means that after many years of evaluating students with weak standards and low expectations, Kansas now has reasonable standards.
But who do we hold accountable for the years of having low standards and further weakening them, while at the same time telling us Kansas students were performing well on tests?
- Weeks, Bob. Kansas has lowered its school standards. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/kansas-has-lowered-its-school-standards/. ↩
- http://educationnext.org/after-common-core-states-set-rigorous-standards/. ↩
- Kansas State Department of Education. Cut Scores for the Kansas Assessment Program. Archived at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B97azj3TSm9MdTJhRVBEeEg3NTA/view. ↩
- Also, see Kansas State Department of Education, Office of the Commissioner. Kansas College and Career Academic Readiness Asessment. http://www.ksde.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=KCpy0dXYuzc%3D&tabid=561&portalid=0&mid=3121. ↩
Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.
Kansas Association of School Boards
Executives and annual salaries 1
John Heim, Executive Director $182,471
Donna Whiteman, Assistant Executive Director $120,041
Brian Jordan, Assistant Executive Director $106,568
Douglas Moeckel, Deputy Executive Director $109,425
David Shriver, Assistant Executive Director $103,845
These executives can afford to send their children to any school.
Kansas National Education Association
Executives and annual salaries 2
Mark Farr, President $118,314
Claudette Johns, Executive Director $149,553
Kevin Riemann, Executive Director $139,327
David Schnauer, General Counsel $142,630
Marjorie Blaufuss, Staff Counsel $123,584
Anthony White, Uniserv Director $119,782
Burle Neely, Uniserv Director $116,559
Gregory Jones, Uniserv Director $117,559
These executives can afford to send their children to any school.
All the above lobby vigorously against any form of school choice.
Can this family afford school choice? Probably not. It is these minority children and children from low-income families that most need school choice. The cruel irony is that the highly paid executives work to deny school choice to these families.
Here are highlights from Voice for Liberty for 2016. Was it a good year for the principles of individual liberty, limited government, economic freedom, and free markets in Wichita and Kansas?
Also be sure to view the programs on WichitaLiberty.TV for guests like journalist, novelist, and blogger Bud Norman; Radio talk show host Joseph Ashby; David Bobb, President of Bill of Rights Institute; Heritage Foundation trade expert Bryan Riley; Radio talk show host Andy Hooser; Keen Umbehr; John Chisholm on entrepreneurship; James Rosebush, author of “True Reagan,” Jonathan Williams of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC); Gidget Southway, or Danedri Herbert; Lawrence W. Reed, president of the Foundation for Economic Education; and Congressman Mike Pompeo.
Kansas legislative resources. Citizens who want to be informed of the happenings of the Kansas Legislature have these resources available.
School choice in Kansas: The haves and have-nots. Kansas non-profit executives work to deny low-income families the school choice opportunities that executive salaries can afford.
Kansas efficiency study released. An interim version of a report presents possibilities of saving the state $2 billion over five years.
Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly. Wichita Eagle Publisher Roy Heatherly spoke to the Wichita Pachyderm Club on January 15, 2016. This is an audio presentation.
Pupil-teacher ratios in the states. Kansas ranks near the top of the states in having a low pupil-teacher ratio.
Kansas highway conditions. Has continually “robbing the bank of KDOT” harmed Kansas highways?
Property rights in Wichita: Your roof. The Wichita City Council will attempt to settle a dispute concerning whether a new roof should be allowed to have a vertical appearance rather than the horizontal appearance of the old.
Must it be public schools? A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association exposes the attitudes of the Kansas public school establishment.
Kansas schools and other states. A joint statement released by Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents’ Association, and Kansas National Education Association makes claims about Kansas public schools that aren’t factual.
After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. In a refreshing change, Kansas schools have adopted realistic standards for students, but only after many years of evaluating students using low standards.
Brownback and Obama stimulus plans. There are useful lessons we can learn from the criticism of Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, including how easy it is to ignore inconvenient lessons of history.
Spending and taxing in Kansas. Difficulty balancing the Kansas budget is different from, and has not caused, widespread spending cuts.
In Sedgwick County, choosing your own benchmarks. The Sedgwick County Commission makes a bid for accountability with an economic development agency, but will likely fall short of anything meaningful.
This is why we must eliminate defined-benefit public pensions. Actions considered by the Kansas Legislature demonstrate — again — that governments are not capable of managing defined-benefit pension plans.
Kansas transportation bonds economics worse than told. The economic details of a semi-secret sale of bonds by the State of Kansas are worse than what’s been reported.
Massage business regulations likely to be ineffective, but will be onerous. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Inspector General evaluates Obamacare website. The HHS Inspector General has released an evaluation of the Obamacare website HealthCare.gov, shedding light on the performance of former Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
Kansas highway spending. An op-ed by an advocate for more highway spending in Kansas needs context and correction.
Brookings Metro Monitor and Wichita. A research project by The Brookings Institution illustrates the poor performance of the Wichita-area economy.
Wichita: A conversation for a positive community and city agenda. Wichita City Manager Robert Layton held a discussion titled “What are Wichita’s Strengths and Weaknesses: A Conversation for a Positive Community and City Agenda” at the February 26, 2016 luncheon of the Wichita Pachyderm Club.
In Kansas, teachers unions should stand for retention. A bill requiring teachers unions to stand for retention elections each year would be good for teachers, students, and taxpayers.
In Kansas, doctors may “learn” just by doing their jobs. A proposed bill in Kansas should make us question the rationale of continuing medical education requirements for physicians.
Power of Kansas cities to take property may be expanded. A bill working its way through the Kansas Legislature will give cities additional means to seize property.
Wichita TIF district disbands; taxpayers on the hook. A real estate development in College Hill was not successful. What does this mean for city taxpayers?
Kansas and Colorado, compared. News that a Wichita-based company is moving to Colorado sparked a round of Kansas-bashing, most not based on facts.
In Wichita, the phased approach to water supply can save a bundle. In 2014 the City of Wichita recommended voters spend $250 million on a new water supply. But since voters rejected the tax to support that spending, the cost of providing adequate water has dropped, and dropped a lot.
Wichita Eagle, where are you? The state’s largest newspaper has no good reason to avoid reporting and editorializing on an important issue. But that’s what the Wichita Eagle has done.
Wichita on verge of new regulatory regime. The Wichita City Council is likely to create a new regulatory regime for massage businesses in response to a problem that is already addressed by strict laws.
Wichita economic development and capacity. An expansion fueled by incentives is welcome, but illustrates a larger problem with Wichita-area economic development.
Rich States, Poor States, 2106 edition. In Rich States, Poor States, Kansas continues with middle-of-the-pack performance, and fell sharply in the forward-looking forecast.
In Wichita, revealing discussion of property rights. Reaction to the veto of a bill in Kansas reveals the instincts of many government officials, which is to grab more power whenever possible.
‘Trump, Trump, Trump’ … oops! An event in Wichita that made national headlines has so far turned out to be not the story news media enthusiastically promoted.
Wichita doesn’t have this. A small Kansas city provides an example of what Wichita should do.
Kansas continues to snub school choice reform that helps the most vulnerable schoolchildren. Charter schools benefit minority and poor children, yet Kansas does not leverage their benefits, despite having a pressing need to boost the prospects of these children.
Wichita property tax rate: Up again. The City of Wichita says it hasn’t raised its property mill levy in many years. But data shows the mill levy has risen, and its use has shifted from debt service to current consumption.
AFP Foundation wins a battle for free speech for everyone. Americans for Prosperity Foundation achieves a victory for free speech and free association.
Kansas Center for Economic Growth. Kansas Center for Economic Growth, often cited as an authority by Kansas news media and politicians, is not the independent and unbiased source it claims to be.
Under Goossen, Left’s favorite expert, Kansas was admonished by Securities and Exchange Commission. The State of Kansas was ordered to take remedial action to correct material omissions in the state’s financial statements prepared under the leadership of Duane Goossen.
Spirit Aerosystems tax relief. Wichita’s largest employer asks to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Wichita mayor’s counterfactual op-ed. Wichita’s mayor pens an op-ed that is counter to facts that he knows, or should know.
Electioneering in Kansas?. An op-ed written under the banner of a non-profit organization appears to violate the ban on electioneering.
Wichita city council campaign finance reform. Some citizen activists and Wichita city council members believe that a single $500 campaign contribution from a corporation has a corrupting influence. But stacking dozens of the same $500 contributions from executives and spouses of the same corporation? Not a problem.
In Wichita, more sales tax hypocrisy. Another Wichita company that paid to persuade you to vote for higher taxes now seeks to avoid paying those taxes.
Wichita student/teacher ratios. Despite years of purported budget cuts, the Wichita public school district has been able to improve its student/teacher ratios.
KPERS payments and Kansas schools. There is a claim that a recent change in the handling of KPERS payments falsely inflates school spending. The Kansas State Department of Education says otherwise.
Regulation in Wichita, a ‘labyrinth of city processes’. Wichita offers special regulatory treatment for special circumstances, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots.
They really are government schools. What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”
Kansas City Star as critic, or apologist. An editorial in the Kansas City Star criticizes a Kansas free-market think tank.
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.
Kansas government ‘hollowed-out’. Considering all state and local government employees in proportion to population, Kansas has many, compared to other states, and especially so in education.
In Wichita, Meitzner, Clendenin sow seeds of distrust. Comments by two Wichita city council members give citizens more reasons to be cynical and distrusting of politicians.
David Dennis, gleeful regulatory revisionist. David Dennis, candidate for Sedgwick County Commission, rewrites his history of service on the Kansas State Board of Education.
Say no to Kansas taxpayer-funded campaigning. Kansas taxpayers should know their tax dollars are helping staff campaigns for political office.
Roger Marshall campaign setting new standards. Attacks on Tim Huelskamp reveal the worst in political campaigning.
Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce on the campaign trail. We want to believe that The Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce and its PAC are a force for good. Why does the PAC need to be deceptive and untruthful?
Which Kansas Governor made these proposals?. Cutting spending for higher education, holding K through 12 public school spending steady, sweeping highway money to the general fund, reducing aid to local governments, spending down state reserves, and a huge projected budget gap. Who and when is the following newspaper report referencing?
Wichita Business Journal editorial missed the news on the Wichita economy. A Wichita business newspaper’s editorial ignores the history of our local economy. Even the history that it reported in its own pages.
Sedgwick County Health Department: Services provided. Sedgwick County government trimmed spending on health. What has been the result so far?
School staffing and students. Trends for the nation and each state in teachers, administrators, and students, presented in an interactive visualization.
Intrust Bank Arena loss for 2015 is $4.1 million. The depreciation expense of Intrust Bank Arena in downtown Wichita recognizes and accounts for the sacrifices of the people of Sedgwick County and its visitors to pay for the arena.
School spending in the states. School spending in the states, presented in an interactive visualization.
Kansas construction employment. Tip to the Wichita Eagle editorial board: When a lobbying group feeds you statistics, try to learn what they really mean.
Wichita has no city sales tax, except for these. There is no Wichita city retail sales tax, but the city collects tax revenue from citizens when they buy utilities, just like a sales tax.
CID and other incentives approved in downtown Wichita. The Wichita City Council approves economic development incentives, but citizens should not be proud of the discussion and deliberation.
Cost per visitor to Wichita cultural attractions. Wichitans might be surprised to learn the cost of cultural attractions.
GetTheFactsKansas launched. From Kansas Policy Institute and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, a new website with facts about the Kansas budget, economy, and schools.
The nation’s report card and charter schools.
* An interactive table of NAEP scores for the states and races, broken down by charter school and traditional public school.
* Some states have few or no charter schools.
* In many states, minority students perform better on the NAEP test when in charter schools.
School choice and funding. Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position.
Public school experts. Do only those within the Kansas public schooling community have a say?
Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Video in the Kansas Senate. A plan to increase visibility of the Kansas Senate is a good start, and needs to go just one or two steps farther.
Kansas, a frugal state?. Is Kansas a frugal state, compared to others?
Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
Kansas revenue estimates. Kansas revenue estimates are frequently in the news and have become a political issue. Here’s a look at them over the past decades.
Kansas school fund balances.
* Kansas school fund balances rose significantly this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil.
* Kansans might wonder why schools did not spend some of these funds to offset cuts they have contended were necessary.
* The interactive visualization holds data for each district since 2008.
In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
Kansas Democrats: They don’t add it up — or they don’t tell us. Kansas Democrats (and some Republicans) are campaigning on some very expensive programs, and they’re aren’t adding it up for us.
How would higher Kansas taxes help?. Candidates in Kansas who promise more spending ought to explain just how higher taxes will — purportedly — help the Kansas economy.
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Explaining to Kansans what the teachers union really means in its public communications.
Kansas school spending: Visualization. An interactive visualization of revenue and spending data for Kansas school districts.
Decoding Duane Goossen. The writing of Duane Goossen, a former Kansas budget director, requires decoding and explanation. This time, his vehicle is “Rise Up, Kansas.”
Decoding the Kansas teachers union. Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Government schools’ entitlement mentality. If the Kansas personal income grows, should school spending also rise?
Wichita bridges, well memorialized. Drivers on East Twenty-First Street in Wichita are happy that the work on a small bridge is complete, but may not be pleased with one aspect of the project.
Gary Sherrer and Kansas Policy Institute. A former Kansas government official criticizes Kansas Policy Institute.
Wichita to grant property and sales tax relief. Several large employers in Wichita ask to avoid paying millions in taxes, which increases the cost of government for everyone else, including young companies struggling to break through.
Economic development incentives at the margin. The evaluation of economic development incentives in Wichita and Kansas requires thinking at the margin, not the entirety.
The Wichita economy, according to Milken Institute. The performance of the Wichita-area economy, compared to other large cities, is on a downward trend.
State pension cronyism. A new report details the way state pension funds harm workers and taxpayers through cronyism.
In Wichita, converting a hotel into street repairs. In Wichita, it turns out we have to sell a hotel in order to fix our streets.
In Wichita, we’ll not know how this tax money is spent. Despite claims to the contrary, the attitude of the City of Wichita towards citizens’ right to know is poor, and its attitude will likely be reaffirmed this week.
Decoding and deconstructing communications from KNEA, the Kansas teachers union, lets us discover the true purpose of the union.
Here, we look at a dispatch from Kansas National Education Association’s “Under the Dome” newsletter from March 14, 2013. It may be found here. The topic of this day was a charter school bill. Kansas has a law that allows charter schools, which are public schools that operate outside many of the rules and regulations that govern traditional public schools. But the Kansas law is written in a way that makes it difficult to form a charter school, and as a result, Kansas has very few charter schools.
KNEA, the teacher union in Kansas, says: Rep. Ed Trimmer noted that a study provided by the proponents (anti-public school “think tank” Kansas Policy Institute) reported that the worst performing charter schools are in states that have multiple charter school “authorizers” — just like this bill.
This sentence holds much of the key to understanding the motives of the teachers union, and the rest of the public school spending lobby. First, they use the term “anti-public school.” This lets us know that for all the bluster coming from the teachers union and its allies about the importance of education and Kansas schoolchildren, it is only public schools that interest them. The simple reason is that in private schools and charter schools, the teachers aren’t union members. It is those union members that the union cares about. Other schools where teachers can work free of the union and its influence are competition to the union.
The use of “think tank” lets us know that the union doesn’t think Kansas Policy Institute is deserving of respect. KPI uses government data to show the true state of Kansas public education, so naturally the teachers union needs to suppress the tellers of truth.
By the way, I don’t think KPI is “anti-public school.” KPI advocates for school choice, to be sure, but school choice programs comfortably co-exist with public schools in many states. And — let’s remind the teachers union that charter schools are public schools.
Then the use of “authorizers” in quotes: Charter school authorizers oversee the charter schools they authorized. In Kansas, the only charter school authorizers are local school boards, and they have shown very little willingness to authorize charters. Here’s what is interesting: In some states with good charter school laws, authorizers must hold their charter schools accountable. In Denver, for the 2011 school year, 25 percent of the charters seeking renewal were closed.1 (There, charters are reauthorized every third year.) That type of accountability is rarely seen in the traditional public schools, where poor-performing schools live on, year after year.
The teachers union says: The Committee reconvened at 1:30 to get a special presentation by anti-public school zealot Dave Trabert of the “think tank” Kansas Policy Institute. Trabert sold his usual snake oil denouncing Kansas public schools as failing most students and thoroughly confused the committee with his talk of NAEP, NCLB, RTTT, state assessments, cut scores and the performance of Texas schools compared to Kansas.
See? The teachers union doesn’t like to talk about the performance of Kansas schools. Anyone who presents the data is denounced. It’s easy to see why. The U.S. Department of Education, through the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), conducts the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) every other year. Known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” it is “the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas.”2 The important thing to remember is that the test is not under the control of states. It is the same in all states, and allows for state-to-state comparisons. (More about this in a moment.)
Nearby is a chart showing performance on the NAEP test. It presents data for grade four reading over time, divided by major categories of race. It shows the percent of students scoring at the level of Basic or better, and on a separate scale, at Proficient or better.
Looking at the first column of data, labeled “All Students,” we can see that Kansas performs better than Texas in every year. It is this finding that the teachers union and its allies use to promote the goodness of Kansas schools.
Aggregated data like this can hide some underlying truths. Look at the third column, reporting scores for black students. For “At or above Proficient,” Kansas and Texas students perform nearly the same. For Basic or better, Texas has the clear advantage in most years.
Similar investigation reveals that for Hispanic students, Texas and Kansas score nearly the same. For white students, Texas scores better than Kansas in each year.
So which schools are better in fourth grade reading, Kansas or Texas? If you were the parent of a young black child learning to read, Texas is doing a better job. For that matter, if you were the parent of a young white child learning to read, Texas has been doing a better job than has Kansas.
(By the way, Texas spends less on its schools than Kansas, on a per-pupil basis.3)
(These charts are derived from an interactive visualization of NAEP scores that I developed. You may access it here to conduct your own investigations.)
We can see why the teachers union demeans and demonizes those who present data like this.
Why are NAEP scores important? Doesn’t the State of Kansas have its own tests? The answer is yes, Kansas has its own tests. And until recently these tests — the standards that the state used to measure achievement — were very weak. That is, Kansas was willing to say students are “proficient” at a much lower level of performance than most other states. In some cases, just a handful of states had lower standards than Kansas. But now the new Kansas standards are more in line with those of other states, and present a more truthful assessment of Kansas schoolchildren. Not surprisingly, scores on the new tests are lower.4
In the past, the teachers union and its allies used the (generally good) performance on these very weak Kansas tests to conclude that Kansas schools were performing well. But that was a lie.
The teachers union says: He was joined via Skype by noted ideological researcher Matthew Ladner. Ladner, who greatly admires Jeb Bush and Florida schools was brought to Kansas by Trabert and KPI once before. Only back then his presentation was colored by the fact that he won a “Bunkum Award” from the National Educational [sic] Policy Center (NEPC). The NEPC, located at the University of Colorado is a national consortium of education researchers and academicians who review the reports of think tanks to make sure it is based on sound research standards.
First, Florida schools perform well on the NAEP, relative to Kansas. If you need convincing, use the visualization of NAEP scores referenced above to compare Florida and Kansas. You’ll find many cases where Florida does better than Kansas.
(By the way, Florida spends less than Kansas on schools, on a per-pupil base.3 This is the real problem the teachers union and its allies have with Florida and Texas: These states spend less than Kansas.)
Now: What is the National Education Policy Center (NEPC)? Just like the Kansas teachers union says, it reviews the reports of think tanks. And when it does, its criticisms are routinely shredded when placed under scrutiny. (Example criticism of one NEPC writer: “His review is deeply flawed and significantly misrepresents our data and findings.6) Almost all the reports it finds to be faulty are published by conservative/libertarian think tanks, although I did see a Brookings Institute report criticized.
Here’s something else: The Kansas teachers union and its allies vigorously attempt to discredit KPI because of its purported funders. If that is a valid concern or criticism, consider this. NEPC’s funders include the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.7 Teachers unions funding research to discredit non-union schools. Who could have figured?
Now we ask this: Should we hold the Kansas teachers union to the same standards it expects of others?
- Colorado League of Charter Schools. ↩
- National Assessment of Educational Progress. About. Available at nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/about/. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: Fiscal Year 2014. https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/SSF/2014/00A08. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. After years of low standards, Kansas schools adopt truthful standards. https://wichitaliberty.org/wichita-kansas-schools/after-years-of-low-standards-kansas-schools-adopt-truthful-standards/. ↩
- U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: Fiscal Year 2014. https://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/SSF/2014/00A08. ↩
- Jim Kessler, Tess Stovall, and Dee Dee Dolan. A Response to the National Education Policy Center: “NEPC review is fatally flawed.” http://www.thirdway.org/memo/a-response-to-the-national-education-policy-center-nepc-review-is-fatally-flawed. ↩
- National Education Policy Center. Support. http://nepc.colorado.edu/support. ↩
Explaining to Kansans what the teachers union really means in its public communications.
After the November 2016 election, the Kansas National Education Association — our state’s teachers union — wants to explain to Kansas the meaning of the results. But it takes a seasoned eye to recognize the subterfuge the union uses to advance its interests. The message from the union may be read at It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Following, quotes from the union missive and interpretation.
“But at KNEA, we are focusing on what the 2016 election means for public education.” Here the writer — lobbyist Mark Desetti — correctly identifies the concern of the teachers union: Public education. Not education, but only public education. Why? Teachers in private schools are not union members. Neither are teachers in charter schools, even though these schools are public schools. So you can see the concern of the union is more precisely only the public schools where there are union members.
“And here in Kansas, our legislative races look more like the best of times.” The public schools really hate being called government schools. But when the outcome of elections affects your outlook, well, that sounds like a government institution.
“At least for those of us who advocate for children, schools, and teachers.” The teachers union’s only concern is teachers. Do not be persuaded otherwise. If the union really cared about children, it would stop opposing school choice programs.
“Combined with moderate Republican victories, this creates a pro-public education block of as many as 75 votes.” Again, public education is the union’s concern.
“The people of Kansas, regardless of party affiliation have let it be known that they are done with the Brownback ‘experiment’ and want to go in a new direction. That direction includes funding our schools and taking care of our children and families.” Governor Brownback was ill-advised to liken cutting taxes to an experiment. As adults, we ought to recognize the boasting of politicians. This doesn’t mean that cutting taxes was wrong. Cutting taxes is the right thing to do, as it means government leaves more resources in the hands of those who earned it. It leaves more money in the productive private sector, instead of in the wasteful public sector, Also, the union should have ended the last sentence at “funding our schools.” If the union truly cared about children and families, it would stop opposing giving parents the power of school choice.
“Kansans also rejected the governor’s attempt to politicize our Supreme Court.” But, the court is already politicized, and in a direction the union favors. So, the union appears to be taking the high ground.
“This vote ensures that our courts will stay free of political and ideological tampering.” If the court really wanted to stay out of politics, it would rule that the level of school spending is a legislative decision, not a judicial decision. But since most of the justices were nominated by a committee overstocked with political liberals, then appointed by liberal governors, the union is pleased with the court.
“Justice should never be for sale.” Well, when you already own the justices on the Kansas Supreme Court, it’s easy to float such high-minded, but transparent, proclamations.
Do not be persuaded by the claims of the Kansas teachers union. The union continually opposes reform measures that would help students simply because reform would mean fewer union members. That — and only that — is the job of the teachers union.
Could a President Trump bring more school choice to Kansas?
One of the campaign planks of President-Elect Donald J. Trump is support for school choice. Specifically, his campaign page states: “Immediately add an additional federal investment of $20 billion towards school choice. This will be done by reprioritizing existing federal dollars.”1
In the next point: “Give states the option to allow these funds to follow the student to the public or private school they attend. Distribution of this grant will favor states that have private school choice, magnet schools and charter laws, encouraging them to participate.”
Normally I would not be in favor of adding to federal spending, but Trump proposes to “reprioritize” existing funds. He is not specific on details.
What could this mean to Kansas? If these funds were allocated to the states proportionally by population — as good a guess as any — Kansas would receive about $182 million. If students were awarded — for example — $5,000, this means 36,400 students could receive this benefit. This amount pays for tuition in some private schools, and goes a long way for paying for others.2 Nationally, charter schools operated on a budget of $7,131 per student in 2014.3 The State of Kansas should be happy to make up the difference, as that is far less than what the state spends now.
The problem with this initiative is that it is targeted towards states that already have school choice programs. Kansas has a small private school scholarship whose existence may be in peril. Kansas has a law that allows for charter schools, but it is limited and designed to make charters very difficult to form.
Targeting these funds towards states with existing school choice program is precisely backwards of what should be done. The funds should go to states that have no — or little — school choice. This will help students overcome the objection of the education establishment that hates school choice, which is that school choice drains money from traditional public schools. That argument is false, but funding from the federal government would help counter that argument.4
Undoubtedly the public school spending lobby will develop other arguments against school choice in Kansas.
Offsetting the increased federal spending would be reduced public school by the states, as most school funding formulas are based on the number of students.
- Donald J. Trump for President. Education. November 9, 2016. http://www.donaldjtrump.com/policies/education/ ↩
- For example, see Classical School of Wichita at around $6,000 per year, Cair Paravel Latin School in Topeka at around $7,000 to $8,000 per year, and the Independent School in Wichita from $10,000 to $10,600 per year. ↩
- Center for Education Reform. Survey of America’s Charter Schools. http://www.edreform.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014CharterSchoolSurveyFINAL.pdf. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. School choice and funding. https://wichitaliberty.org/education/school-choice-funding/. ↩
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita sells a hotel, more subsidy for downtown, Kansas newspaper editorialists fall for a lobbyist’s tale, how Kansas can learn from Arizona schools, and government investment. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 131, broadcast October 30, 2016.
- Article: Wichita, give back the Hyatt proceeds. Instead of spending the proceeds of the Hyatt hotel sale, the city should honor those who paid for the hotel — the city’s taxpayers.
- Article: In Wichita, developer welfare under a cloud. A downtown Wichita project receives a small benefit from the city, with no mention of the really big money.
- Article: Topeka Capital-Journal falls for a story. The editorial boards of two large Kansas newspapers have shown how little effort goes into forming the opinions they foist upon our state.
- Article: Kansas and Arizona schools. Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Arizona shows that Kansas is missing out on an opportunity to provide better education at lower cost.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau tells us this:1
Total Spending Per Pupil:
Arizona: $7,528. Kansas: $9,972.
Spending on Instruction Per Pupil:
Arizona: $4,091. Kansas $6,112.
This data is from the school year ending in 2014, which is the most recent data from the Census Bureau that includes data from all states in a comparable fashion.
So how do Arizona and Kansas Students compare? A nearby table holds data from the 2015 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, known as the “Nation’s Report Card.” This is a snapshot of a larger interactive visualization.2
For each state, I show the data for traditional public schools and for charter schools. (As Kansas has very few charter schools, there is no data for this category.) Kansas scores exceed Arizona scores in only one instance.
Arizona embraces charter schools and other forms of school choice. In 2014, 17.8 percent of Arizona public schools were in charter schools. Kansas has a law that allows for charter schools, but it is designed to make charters difficult to form and run. Plus, the Kansas public school community fights against charter schools. As a result, only 0.5 percent of Kansas students are in charter schools.3
Can Kansas learn from Arizona with its lower costs and higher student achievement?
- U.S. Census Bureau. Public Education Finances: 2014. Table 8: Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems by State: Fiscal Year 2014. Available at census.gov/library/publications/2016/econ/g14-aspef.html. ↩
- Weeks, Bob. The nation’s report card and charter schools. Available at wichitaliberty.org/education/nations-report-card-charter-schools/. ↩
- Author’s compilation of data from U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD). Available here. ↩
Opponents of school choice programs argue the programs harm traditional public schools, both financially and in their ability to serve their remaining students. Evidence does not support this position.
The prevalent argument is that charter schools and other school choice programs drain funds from public schools. That is, if a public school student chooses to attend a charter or private school, and if the money follows the student to the other school, the public school district loses money that it otherwise would have received. Therefore, the public school district is worse off, and so too are its students.
A rebuttal is that since a public school has shed the responsibility for schooling the student, its costs should fall correspondingly. This would be true if all the costs of a public school are variable. Some costs are fixed, however, meaning they can’t be adjusted quickly — in the short run, that is. An example is the cost to maintain a classroom. If a school has one less student than the year before, it still requires the same support for utilities. One or several fewer students doesn’t mean that fewer teachers are needed.
Public schools and their lobbyists, therefore, argue that school choice programs are a financial burden to public schools. Under school choice programs, they say, public schools lose students and their accompanying funding, but the public schools retain their fixed costs.
The question, then, is what portion of a school’s costs are variable, meaning costs that schools can adjust quickly, and what portion are fixed, meaning they can’t be adjusted quickly? Benjamin Scafidi, professor of economics at Kennesaw State University, has examined schools looking for the answer to this question. His paper The Fiscal Effects of School Choice Programs on Public School Districts, published by EdChoice (formerly The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice), holds answers to these questions.
The first question is this: What is the relation of school choice programs to school districts’ variable costs? Scafidi has endeavored to determine the breakdown between variable and fixed costs in each state. In Kansas, for the 2008 – 2009 school year, total spending per student was $11,441. Of that, Scafidi estimates $3,749, or 32.8 percent, were fixed costs. Variable costs were $7,692, or 67.2 percent. Since then spending has risen, but there’s no reason to think the allocation of costs between fixed and variable has changed materially. For the school year ending in 2015 total spending per student was $13,1241. That implies fixed costs per student of $4,305 and variable costs per student of $8,819.
Now, how much money would a public school lose if a student chose to attend a school other than the traditional public schools? For Kansas this question is complicated by recent changes in the way public schools are funded. Prior to the school year ending in 2016, Kansas used a school funding formula that started with a figure called “base state aid per pupil.” For 2015 the value was $3,852, and that is the starting point for calculating state spending per student.
In a recent presentation on this topic, Scafidi said: “Any school choice program where about $8,000 per student or less, on average, follows the child to the school of his or her choice, improves the fiscal situation of the public school district, on average, and students who remain in public schools have more resources available for their education.” Considering only base state aid per pupil, a typical Kansas school district, which has variable costs of $8,819 per student, has its fiscal situation improved when it loses a student and the accompanying $3,852 in state funding.
Many Kansas students, however, trigger much more funding due to weightings that compensate for the purported higher costs of some situations. The largest weighting in Kansas, based magnitude, is the “at-risk” weighting. It adds 45.6 percent to base state aid. So if a Kansas public school loses such a student and weighting, it loses $5,608 in funding. That is far less than its variable costs of $8,819. State funding for Kansas schools in the school year ending in 2015 was $8,5672 per student, still less than school districts’ variable costs.
I asked Scafidi what is the dividing line between variable and fixed costs? The answer is that within two or three years, schools should be able to adjust their fixed costs to be in line with their needs. This is in line with the economic and accounting reality that says in the long run, all costs are variable.
Can school districts adjust their costs quickly in response to changing enrollments? This may be a problem for the very smallest districts, those with just one or two teachers per grade, Scadifi concedes. In his paper, Scafidi illustrates two examples of districts in Georgia with just over 1,000 students making adjustments. In Kansas, there are 286 school districts. Of these, 207 have enrollment of less than 1,000 students, but only 20 percent if the state’s students are in these small districts.
School districts often dispute the contention that they are able to reduce their variable costs rapidly in response to enrollment changes. Scafidi notes that if school districts say they cannot reduce costs when they lose students, the implication is that all of their costs are fixed. If that is true, then schools should not receive additional funding when enrollment rises. If all their costs truly are fixed, the total cost of running a school district does not change with enrollment — either up or down.
Going forward in Kansas
Kansas is in the process of formulating a new school financing method. For the school years ending in 2016 and 2017 the state has used a block grant method, whereby state funding to school districts was frozen at the 2015 level with some increases programmed into the law. Current law anticipates a new funding formula being passed in the 2017 legislative session and applied to the school year ending in 2018.
One of the most important goals for the new funding method should be transparency and flexibility. The prior school finance formula was criticized as being complex and difficult to understand. For example, in June the Kansas Legislature held a special session in order to increase school funding in response to a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court. But, more than half of the higher funding the Wichita school district received went to property tax reduction, rather than being spent on schools.3 Citizens have trouble understanding how increasing state school funding means a reduction in property tax instead of more teachers or schoolbooks. This illustrates a problem with transparency in the prior funding formula.
We have seen that school choice programs do not harm the finances of local school districts. The second question concerns the quality of education for the students who remain in public schools.
To answer this question, we must recognize the wide variation of teacher efficacy. Some are very good, and some very poor. Further, the difference between good and bad is large. Eric A. Hanushek and others have found that very good teachers routinely produce 1.5 years of gain in achievement during an academic year. Bad teachers produce 0.5 years of gain.4 If a student is unfortunate enough to experience ineffective teachers two or three years in a row, the student may be so far behind as to never catch up.
What does this have to do with school choice programs? If public schools have to downsize due to students lost for any reason — including school choice programs — this gives public schools an opportunity to shed their least effective teachers. This means that students who remain in public schools have a higher likelihood of experiencing the most effective teachers.
- Kansas State Department of Education. Total Expenditures by District. Available at www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/School-Finance/Budget-Information/Total-Expenditures-by-District. ↩
- ibid. ↩
- Lowry, Brian. Kansas schools will stay open as court OKs funding fix. Wichita Eagle, June 28, 2016. Available at www.kansas.com/news/local/education/article86508017.html. ↩
- Hanushek and Rivkin. Teacher Quality. Available here. ↩
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Is it true that some Kansas schoolchildren have no hope of attending a private school? What’s wrong with government schools? Then a talk on “Rethinking Education Tomorrow Starts with Understanding Outcomes Today.” View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 122, broadcast June 19, 2016.
- A plea to a legislator regarding Kansas schools. On Facebook, a citizen makes an appeal to her cousin, who is a member of the Kansas Legislature.
- They really are government schools. What’s wrong with the term “government schools?”
- Video from TEDx: Rethinking Education Tomorrow Starts with Understanding Outcomes Today
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Kansas has essentially no charter schools. Here’s why we need them. AFP Foundation scores a victory for free speech and association. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 120, broadcast June 5, 2016.
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Was it “Trump” or “Bernie” that incited a fight, and how does the Wichita Eagle opine? Economic development in Wichita. Blight and property rights. Teachers unions. Explaining capitalism. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 117, broadcast April 24, 2016.
Charter schools benefit minority and poor children, yet Kansas does not leverage their benefits, despite having a pressing need to boost the prospects of these children.
The CREDO studies at Stanford University are often cited as the most comprehensive and reliable research on charter schools. Opponents of charter school focus on a finding that some charter schools are worse than local traditional public schools, the figures being 19 percent for reading and 31 percent for math. Because of this, opponents of charter schools feel justified in keeping them out of Kansas. (Kansas does allow charter schools, but the law is so stacked against charter schools that there are very few, effectively none.)
The findings from the Stanford CREDO National Charter School Study from 2013 contain much more information than this simple conclusion. In particular, here is a partial quote from its executive summary: “Enrollment and persistence in charter schools is especially helpful for some students, particularly students in poverty [and] black students …”
Why would we not want to experience these benefits, especially for poor and minority students?
This is important. While the Kansas public education establishment touts the state’s relatively high performance on national tests, when results are analyzed closely, we see some things that should cause all Kansans to embrace whatever we can do to correct this.
Nearby is a chart of NAEP scores for Kansas and national public schools. It is an example from a visualization of NAEP scores that you may use yourself. I’ve circled some troubling results. An example of something that must be changed is this: For grade four math, 14 percent of Kansas black students are at the level “proficient” or better. For national public schools, the figure for the same population subgroup is 19 percent.
Following, some findings from the CREDO study that show how charter schools help precisely the students that need the most help. But the Kansas school establishment does not want charter schools, and so far Kansas Republicans — including Governor Brownback and legislative leaders — have been unwilling to help the most vulnerable Kansas schoolchildren.
“The 27 states in our study provide the widest angle view of the charter school sector to date. Across multiple measures, the students in these charter schools have shown both improved quality over the results from 2009 and an upward trend in their performance over the past five years.”
“The average charter school student now gains an additional 8 days of learning each year in reading, compared to the loss of 7 days each year reported in 2009. In math, charter students in 2009 posted 22 fewer days of learning; now that gap is closed so their learning each year is on par with their peers in traditional public schools.”
“Looking back to the demographics of the charter school sector in the 27 states, charter school enrollment has expanded among students in poverty, black students, and Hispanic students. These are precisely the students that, on average, find better outcomes in charter schools. These findings lend support to the education and social policies that focus on education as the mechanism to improve life chances for historically underserved students. Charter schools are especially beneficial learning environments for these students, as the following graphics illustrate in greater detail.”
“Enrollment and persistence in charter schools is especially helpful for some students, particularly students in poverty, black students, and English language learners all of whom post significantly higher learning gains in both reading and math. Hispanic students are on par with their TPS peers in both reading and math. For students with multiple designations (such as being black and in poverty), the impacts of charter schooling are especially positive and noteworthy.”
In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: There are worthy goals the Kansas Legislature should tackle, and the need for school choice in Kansas. Episode 107, broadcast January 31, 2016. View below, or click here to view at YouTube.