Topeka — Kansas ranked 41st in directing its education funds into classroom instruction, statistics released Tuesday showed.
And fewer than 8 percent of Kansas school districts are hitting the mark of spending 65 percent of their funds on instruction.
But the figures can be deceiving, officials said in a presentation to the Legislative Educational Planning Committee.
"The variables are endless," said Carolyn Rampey, an analyst with the Legislative Research Department.
Kansas spent 59.2 percent of its education dollar on instruction, with the remainder spent on administration and support services, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
But those statistics were based on the 2002-2003 school year, before recent increases in school funding that were directed mainly to the classroom.
On that list, the national average was 60 percent, with New York at the top with 68.7 percent, and the lowest being New Mexico at 55.5 percent. Regionally, Nebraska had the highest ranking with 63.8 percent; Missouri, 61 percent; Iowa, 59.5 percent; Oklahoma, 57.9 percent; and Colorado, 57.3 percent.
A state analysis used the 2003-2004 school year, which also was before the injection of new cash. That analysis showed that of Kansas' 300 school districts, only 23 put more than 65 percent of their funding into classroom instruction, with the highest being the Holton district at 69.44.
The average was 60.01 percent; Lawrence was at 60.74 percent.
The 65 percent figure is important because under legislation that increased school funding this year, lawmakers included a goal that 65 percent of state funding be expended in the classroom or for instruction.
In addition to the age of the statistics, there is debate over what counts as funds for classroom instruction.
Under federal guidelines, schools cannot count for instructional purposes, monies spent on transportation, administration, food service, construction, maintenance, repairs or support services such as nurses, librarians and counselors.
Sparsely populated districts, for example, may spend a larger portion of their budget on busing students, but they can't count that as part of the cost of instruction.
Similarly, larger districts which may have added administration to conduct extensive support programs for students can't count those expenses. School advocates also questioned why, for example, if a student needed a speech pathologist that expense would be excluded from the classroom instruction tally.
Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, said he has seen studies that show while Kansas' classroom instruction portion is lower than other midwestern states, Kansas has better student performance rankings. "So, go figure," he said.
A national movement called First Class Education, funded by Arizona-based Internet retailer Patrick Byrne, who is president and chairman of Overstock.com, is seeking approval in all 50 states of legislation that would require 65 percent of education operating budgets be spent in the classroom.
But while Kansas has set that as a goal, lawmakers appeared hesitant to make it a requirement,
Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, and chair of the LEPC, said, keeping the 65 percent mark as a goal "gives the public a way to measure and ask questions of their school district and their money."
Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, said she wasn't sure there was anything special about the 65 percent figure and the current definitions about what counts as classroom expenses and what expenses are excluded from the calculation.
"Do we get to count as classroom instruction all the money that goes unreported that teachers spend out of their own pockets?" she asked.
Those currently aren't counted as classroom instruction.
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)