Wichita public schools, by the charts

Data from the annual report for USD 259, the Wichita, Kansas, public school district.

The Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for USD 259, the Wichita public school district, provides a look at trends over the years. The document, along with those from previous years, is available here. Here are some highlights from the CAFR for the year ending June 30, 2018, known as fiscal year 2018.

(Click charts for larger versions.)

The following chart shows data from the CAFR along with my calculations. I took two data series, “total revenue” and “sum of state and local revenue,” then divided by FTE enrollment and adjusted for inflation. (The inflation adjustments cast past dollar values in terms of current-dollar equivalents, meaning past values are usually reduced.) I plot the sum of state and local revenue because in 2015 there was a change in the way some taxes were allocated. Plotting the sum of the two removes the effect of the change.

While USD 259 — and schools generally — complain about funding cuts, the following chart shows funding nearly always increases, and over time, by quite a bit.

The following chart shows spending categorized by “instruction” and “instructional support” per student in inflation-adjusted dollars. Capital spending is not included in this chart.

In 2006, USD 259 spent $579 per student (inflation-adjusted) on administration. For 2018 the figure is $927. Could the Wichita public school district cut administration spending to 2006 levels, on a per-student, inflation-adjusted basis?

The Wichita school district has been able to reduce its student/teacher ratios substantially over the last ten to fifteen years. (Student/teacher ratio is not the same statistic as class size.) There have been ups and downs along the way, but for all three school levels, the ratios are lower than they were years ago, and by substantial margins. This means that Wichita schools have been able to increase employment of teachers at a faster rate than enrollment has risen.

On enrollment, the superintendent’s letter says this:

The District’s enrollment trend over the last ten years has reflected an average increase of over 100 students a year. However, budget reduction measures and changes to Kindergarten funding at the state level are beginning to impact this trend. In FY’17, official enrollment decreased by 572 students, or one percent. Official enrollment in FY’18 increased by 80 students, but gains in virtual and alternative programs were offset by a significant decrease in elementary age students. The elementary enrollment decline continued into FY’19, with a loss of over 500 elementary students. Offsetting some of this loss, Secondary enrollment increased by 240 students. The declines in past few years can partially be attributed to cost-cutting measures under the block grant, including denial of out-of-district students, the consolidation of alternative high school programs, and the combination of a longer school day and shorter school year, which many parents viewed as negatively impacting their students. Further, now that the State fully funds all-day Kindergarten, parent who used to enroll students in the District to obtain all-day Kindergarten services can now receive those same services in the surrounding area districts. Additional FY’19 funding allowed the District to return to the longer school year, but it remains unclear if this action will bring back elementary students to the District.’

Since 2015, Kansas test scores have been reported in a new way. Kansas State Department of Education explains:

Kansas assessment results are now reported in four levels. Level 1 indicates that a student shows a limited ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 2 indicates that a student shows a basic ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 3 indicates that a student shows an effective ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 4 indicates that a student shows an excellent ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness.

For Wichita, the trend is that an increasing proportion of students are at performance level 1. Correspondingly, the proportion at level 2 or better is falling.

Following, a chart of the portion of Wichita public school students testing at performance level 1, the lowest level.

Following, for performance level 2 or better, indicating, “a student shows a basic ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness.”

Following, for performance level 3 or better, indicating, “a student shows an effective ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness.”

Following, for performance level 4, indicating, “a student shows an excellent ability to understand and use the mathematics skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness.”

Following, charts of suspensions and expulsions.

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