Archive for Monday, August 29, 2005

Outside opinion to influence school finances

New York duo hired to help Kansas get handle on its education budget

August 29, 2005


— The future of school finance in Kansas may depend, in part, on a pair of New Yorkers.

Syracuse University professors William Duncombe and John Yinger have been hired by the state to figure out how much money will be needed to get Kansas students reading and writing at proficient levels.

That "outcomes-based" approach has been emphasized by the federal No Child Left Behind law and the Kansas Supreme Court in its recent orders on school finance, which resulted in a $290 million increase for schools this year - and possibly greater amounts in coming years.

Duncombe and Yinger have declined to talk about the study. But even though they are based 1,200 miles away, they are familiar with the ins and outs of Kansas' complex school finance system.

A former Kansas University professor who has collaborated with Duncombe said previous studies showed that Kansas could not continue to lower property taxes while schools required additional funding.

"There is going to be some pain felt," said Jocelyn Johnston, now a professor at American University in Washington, D.C. "I don't think the state wants to sacrifice their good reputation as far as education is concerned."

Other experts warn, however, that money won't be the sole factor in educating students.

"Here in Lawrence, some schools are judged outstanding and some are judged wanting," said John Poggio, co-director for the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation at Kansas University. "They're basically all working out of the same pot of money, so how do you have that?"

Earlier findings

Duncombe's earlier research into Kansas education might provide a clue to his next recommendations.

With Johnston, Duncombe wrote a 1998 research paper saying Kansas' 1992 school finance reforms were among the most far-reaching in the nation, transferring "significant public school funding decisions - both taxing and spending - to the state."

In order to get the reforms passed, Duncombe wrote, the Legislature instituted the local option budget that allowed school districts to raise local tax dollars for education.

The LOB ran counter to establishing statewide funding equity, Duncombe wrote, but "it could be viewed as a moderate price to pay for what it permits: political acceptance, in a politically conservative state, of a highly centralized, explicitly redistributive government initiative."

By 2004, however, Duncombe and Johnston wrote, in an article included in a book edited by Yinger, that equity in school funding was unraveling because of a combination of the local option budget, extra state funding for small districts and the failure of the state to increase school funding.

"The stage has been set for a major conflict between the local interests that deal daily with education needs and the state policymakers who have, so far, refused to consider raising new revenue to meet their public school funding responsibilities," they wrote.

That conflict played out this year before the state Supreme Court, which ordered lawmakers to increase school funding.

And it continues, with a court order to come up with a study that shows how much funding is necessary to provide an equal educational opportunity for each of Kansas' 450,000 students.

The Legislative Division of Post Audit will conduct one portion of the study, but is paying Duncombe and Yinger $49,094 for the outcomes-based portion of the study.

Delicate balance

The previous papers by Duncombe and Johnston noted that small districts need extra state money to stay open.

"If the state is willing to pay lots of bucks to keep them open, fine," said Johnston, who recently left KU after 12 years in the Public Administration department. "That is again where you balance the politics and economics and try to come up with a solution."

So far, a 2001 study by consultants Augenblick and Myers has been the basis for school finance cost estimates by the Supreme Court. That study - resented by many state lawmakers - indicates at least $568 million more must to be pumped into the $3 billion school system.

In their proposal to the audit division, Duncombe and Yinger said they would use a "cost function" method to develop estimates on what should be spent in schools. Yinger helped develop the cost function method and has applied it to schools in Nebraska and New York, and local governments in Massachusetts.

The approach takes a huge amount of data on spending and student needs to develop a cost index that is then factored in with measures outside a district's control, such as high populations of disadvantaged students and the costs of hiring quality teachers.

The professors, who intend to travel to Topeka several times, say they hope to finish the report by Dec. 1.

Johnston said she was confident the two professors would do excellent work.

"They are the experts," she said.


John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

Wonderful, if it's not the unelected leftist tyrants of our totalitarian juducial system, it's a bunch of unelected leftist academics from New York making the decisions. How utterly precious.

Liberalism is tyranny. Liberalism is fascism.

It's time to overthrow these unelected, unrepresentative liberal tyrants and let the elected representatives of the citizens of Kansas decide how to fund these useless government schools.

Dani Davey 12 years, 8 months ago

Yeah because exactly the thing we want is public schools to be shut down. Then Kansas will be quite the utopia with thousands of kids running around in the streets all day because their parents can't afford private school. There will be crime and graffiti. As our elderly start to retire there will be no one to replace them because our workforce will be uneducated. Those who were rich enough to afford private school will undoubtedly leave the state for higher education and a better job market. Oh man but we'll save so much money in taxes. All of the crime and poverty will be just a small price to pay for lower taxes.

John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

Strange, the legislature decided how much the schools got for decade after decade and the sky didn't fall, the schools didn't shut down and the elderly were replaced in the labor force when they retired.

In fact, it wasn't until the liberal courts started mollycoddling criminals that crime got out of control.

Yet another reason to rein in these unelected and unrepresentative elitist judicial tyrants.

Nothing like a little hysteria to start the day off. No wonder no one listens to libs any more. "The sky is falling, the sky is falling." Get the judges under control and the sky will be just fine.

Lepanto1571 12 years, 8 months ago


Perhaps you can point to the location in the U.S Constitution where compulsory education is mandated?

Richard Heckler 12 years, 8 months ago

Rupert Murdoch, it was noted on radio Friday morning, is one of the kings of porn. He is also a strong Bush supporter which is one more example of how the religious wrong will accept money from any source. Ralph Reed and Oral Roberts love gambling money. Pat Robertson loves money from sweat labor of the African gold mines.

The guys and gals in the majority at the Kansas state house hired school funding consultants and then ignored the results. Then they wasted more money by diverting attention to matters that were none of their business. Ms Connie Morris runs around pretending she's important and billing taxpayers for her fun and games which is fraud. Then we had a republican gal from Olathe breaking campaign financing laws.

Now back to the issue of school funding. Prior to 1992 our system was running smoothly then politicians decided to mess with taxes and screwed things a bit. Instead of admitting a mistake was made they have decided to allow the cookie jar to become that's a real sharp economic philosophy.

coldandhot 12 years, 8 months ago

Spare us Merrill. Your comments are not adding a lot of value. In your perfect world, Republicans all belong in jail. Especially conservative ones.

Let's talk about the issues and stop attacking people.

John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

Really, and what are the examples of Kline's, O'Conner's and Morris' incompetence other than they disagree with you.

And to Wendt. One can only look forward to the day when you contribute something to an argument besides your childish ad hominem attacks. As I said at the start of this thread, if you people could contribute something besides hysteria and insults to the debate, you might actually get somewhere.

Lepanto1571 12 years, 8 months ago


If anyone could bring Pat Robertson and Christianity into a discussion of compulsory education, where not even remotely mentioned, it would be you. In light of this habitual pathology, I fail to see what issue you could possibly take with Armenius and PW. Your obsession with Christianity verges on hysteria. You have merely chosen an alternate obsession.

If you didn't want to talk about education and the role of government like an adult, you could have merely said so, as opposed to your predictable diversion to your favorite targets of obsessive hatred and marching out your inadequacies for all to witness.

John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

Wendt, I know Nazism isn't bad to you. That's clear from every post you submit. Thanks for the admission. It may well be the most informative thing you've ever said.

Where's your argument? In any of your posts? Where have we lost? Just because you say so? I don't think so, and certainly not based on your assessment.

I pointed out that the legislature has been making decisions for decades and none of the hysterical results Dani mentions has happened. Where outside your vacuous assertions did I lose that argument?

To observer, thanks for the listing. I appreciate your response and I agree that some of the things you mention are issues that are fairly raised, but still, some of them are merely statements that you disagree with, and that neither makes those folks competent, or incompetent.

John1945 12 years, 8 months ago

From Wendt "I count eleven functions of government that I listed, government that Lepanto1571 and John1945 seem to have problems with. Only one ad hominem and one that is well deserved. No response from either Lepanto 1571 or John1945 other than total ad hominem.

Tell me Lepanto1571 or John1945, how the roads get constructed in your conservative / anarchist world? How does the water get clean? How does the monetary system get created? Who arrests the criminals?"

Where did we have problems with these eleven figments of your imagination? Where have we discussed the monetary system, etc. Show me that discussion.

This is yet another fallacy wherein one sets up a non-existent straw man and then debates with it, being unable to make a case against the original argument.

You're not even in the same argument with us and you've obviously recognized that fact when you signed off as Moron. It's like when you were babbling about Ozzy Osbourne in some post the other day on a story that had nothing to do with him. Complete irrelevancy, but that's what liberalism has been reduced to.

You then move on to yet another absurd debate with yourself over your complete incomprehension of my use of the term Nazi. The frightening thing is that you've reproduced.

DKAG 12 years, 8 months ago

I'd be interested in why in Lawrence the cost to send kids to public school is so high, when in other towns in Kansas the charges are not as high. I'm told in towns like Eudora it's free. I may be ignorant here so please bare with me but I've lived in Kansas for only a short time. I'm from the Chicago suburbs where you can send your kids to public school for half of what we pay here. Perhaps it's the taxes which are much higher in cook county, but I'd be interested in any imput. Thanks for your time.

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