Topeka School district spending levels don't appear to influence student performance, according to a legislative study accepted today by a Kansas House-Senate committee.
The study, which compared student test scores and other factors in Kansas school districts with similar characteristics, concluded that the quality of education is not tied to funding levels.
The report, prepared by the Legislative Division of Post Audit, was sought by the Post Audit Committee because of lawmakers' concerns that lower funding levels may result in lesser educational opportunities for students.
"Even when district expenditure figures were corrected to account for the differing impact of fixed costs on districts of varying sizes, there appeared to be no relationship," the report said.
CINDY LASH, senior auditor, said researchers measured education quality by examining minimum competency test scores, two commonly used basic achievement tests, attendance rates and dropout rates.
To isolate the impact of expenditures on performance, researchers compared districts with similar characteristics teacher salaries, student-teacher ratio, subsidized lunches, enrollment, taxable income in a district.
Previous studies support the new report. In an analysis of 1986 Kansas minimum competency tests, Kansas University researchers found no link between expenditures and test scores in math and a slight link in reading.
"A lot of people say there is a correlation," said Sen. Gus Bogina, R-Lenexa, chairman of the Post Audit Committee. "I think it's a very interesting study and we can learn a lot from it."
LASH SUGGESTED the state consider new ways of comparing districts' expenditures in funding deliberations, because instances were found in which districts with higher spending levels had higher levels of student performance and vice versa.
In fiscal 1990, districts received more than $900 million in state aid. The largest amount of aid was determined by a formula that distributes funds according to districts' local wealth and per-pupil budgets.
Dale Dennis, state Board of Education representative, wasn't suprised by results of the study. It's hard to find linkage when so many factors are at play, including local school boards and community educational philosophy, he said.
During the committee discussion of the report, Sen. Ben Vidricksen, R-Salina, said money could be saved by consolidating the state's 304 local school districts into 105 countywide districts.
VIDRICKSEN said schools wouldn't necessarily be closed if consolidation came about, but administrative costs could be reduced substantially. Administrative costs have increased 150 percent in the past 10 years, he said.
"We need to get a handle on administrative costs," Vidricksen said. "It seems to be with communications the way they are we could consolidate." But Bogina doubted such a change would occur, noting, "It's a hot potato and no one wants to do it."