At a September rally at the Kansas Capitol, Mark Desetti presented a picture of Kansas school spending that is accurate but deceptive, all at the same time.
Desetti is Director, Legislative and Political Advocacy at Kansas National Education Association (KNEA), our state’s teachers union. In other words, he’s a lobbyist whose job is to try and garner as much money as possible for the members of his union — all in the name of “the kids,” of course.
In video of the rally, he told the audience that “Base funding for education in Kansas has dropped to the 1999 level for 2012, and that’s not adjusted for inflation.”
Desetti is correct — nearly so — in this assertion. But “base funding,” also known as base state aid per pupil, tells only part of the school spending story. And a small part, at that.
According to the Kansas State Department of Education, BSAPP for the school year starting in 1999 was $3,770. For the school year starting in 2011 (fiscal year 2012), the figure is $3,780. (Let’s not quibble over the $10 difference.)
Listening to school spending advocates like Desetti, you might think that BSAPP is the only funding that schools receive. But BSAPP is only part of the funds that schools receive.
For the 1999 school year, Kansas spent $1,815,684,144 on state aid to schools. For the 2009 school year, the most recent year for which KSDE supplies data, state aid was $2,867,835,438 — an increase of over one billion dollars, or 58 percent.
Looking at total Kansas school spending for the same years, spending increased from $3,063,233,269 to $5,589,549,135 — an increase of about 2.5 billion dollars, or 82 percent.
These are the types of figures that school spending advocates don’t like to talk about. Instead, they focus on a small portion of total spending — one that has gone down quite a bit from its recent peak — and use it as a surrogate for total school spending.
Is this telling a lie? No. Desetti is correct — as much as he wanted to be. But if we look at the entire spectrum of school spending in Kansas, we see that Desetti — like most of the school spending advocacy and bureaucracy in Kansas — is deceptive in focusing on only one component of school spending.
It’s no wonder that Desetti and others won’t appear in public forums where they don’t control the message.