To the Editor:
The article “Kansas Panel Pours Fuel on Debate Over K-12 Aid” (Jan. 27, 2016) is both misleading and factually incorrect regarding education funding in Kansas. It is a prime example of opinion driving what is supposed to be hard news.
The article opens with a complete misrepresentation of the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on education spending in 2014. The implication is that the court made a conclusive decision about educational funding at that time. In fact, the justices did no such thing in 2014.
The article presents an erroneous, bleak picture of education funding, using the phrase “so little money” and going so far as to call school districts “starving.” Here are the facts: Kansas has increased per-pupil spending each year since coming out of the Great Recession, now spending over $13,000 per pupil, which is about average when the numbers are compared with those of nearby states.
Starving? Kansas districts reported a combined $860 million carry-over balance into the current school year. That is nearly double the amount of a decade ago and represents 17 percent of operating expenses. The decision not to spend those dollars is one made strictly by the local districts.
The article also misrepresents the temporary block-grant funding mechanism. Although the funding was less than districts had hoped would be allocated, the funding mechanism does not cut existing budgets and will actually increase statewide spending by 5.6 percent over its three-year cycle.
As a 17-year veteran teacher in Kansas, I can attest that the amount of funding provided to schools is not the problem. The problem is that the education establishment in Kansas is like an addict when it comes to money. Just last summer, the Kansas district in which I reside asked the voters for a $400,000 budget override, citing the block-grant increase as a “cut.” And they did so while sitting on over $8 million in reserve. Thankfully, the voters didn’t fall for it, and the measure was soundly defeated.
That is a much more accurate depiction of the state of school finance in Kansas.
Senior Education Analyst
Kansas Policy Institute
Editor’s note: Last month, the Kansas Supreme Court made a determination that the state’s funding was inequitable.
A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2016 edition of Education Week as Kansas Schools Are Not ‘Starving': Article’s Depiction Is Disputed