Archive for Friday, December 11, 2009

Schools For Fair Funding group adds more schools, but no decision yet about a new lawsuit

December 11, 2009, 8:16 a.m. Updated December 11, 2009, 1:23 p.m.


— While Kansas school districts continue to join a group that advocates for more funding for public education, no decision has been made on whether to file a second lawsuit against the Legislature to force more funding.

Attorney John Robb said Thursday that Schools for Fair Funding now includes 67 of the state’s 293 school districts, representing 165,586 students.

In 1999, the school districts sued the state for additional funding. That suit resulted in a 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ruling and a spending increase of nearly $1 billion.

But the state has had five rounds of cuts and other adjustments this year to keep its budget balanced, with public schools losing millions of dollars and seeing base state aid per student drop. The Kansas Department of Education estimates the total reductions in general state aid to districts at $241 million compared to 2009 levels.

“Contrary to popular belief, they have not voted to sue the state,” said Robb, who is based in Newton. “They have talked about it. They are considering options. They want more districts involved in the process, so they have given more time. The whole thing is run by the school districts, so they set the meetings and the pace.”

Robb said the fair funding group thought it had achieved its goals with the last lawsuit but the Legislature created the current problems by cutting state revenues through tax cuts.

“They went ahead and kept cutting revenue,” Robb said. “We get to 2009, and everyone is surprised there is a deficit. They are blaming the economy. The recession certainly didn’t help it. But this budget train wreck has been coming since 2006.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Kevin Yoder said threatening the Legislature with another lawsuit doesn’t help solve the state’s fiscal crisis.

“Obviously, it’s disappointing to many of us that our superintendents have chosen that route,” said Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. “We are all working hard to pitch in and find a way out of the current fiscal crisis. Suing for money that we don’t have is creating more problems, as opposed to finding solutions.”

Santa Fe Trail is one of the districts that has joined the group. Superintendent Steve Pegram said the Legislature is not keeping a promise it made after the 1999 lawsuit.

“I’m disappointed that adults who make promises and pass laws won’t keep their word,” he said. “I think if they showed any signs of trying to work through this, I don’t think you would have all of these school districts doing this again. None of us want to sue the state.”

Silver Lake USD 327 superintendent Randy Freeman said board members had decided to not join the group for now.

“The board’s position is that we aren’t going to participate in the lawsuit,” he said. “We talked about it at two different meetings, and their position was at this time they didn’t feel like the state has any money, and it wouldn’t necessarily benefit students to be involved in that.”

The group will meet Dec. 18 at the Salina school district office, Robb said.

“We will go from there,” Pegram said. “We don’t have a lot of ways to advocate for our kids. We can talk to our legislators until we are blue in the face. They do what they want to do.”


anon1958 8 years, 5 months ago

The schools won the last time and the Kansas legislature failed to live up to the court mandated agreement. The fiscal disaster we are now in is due more to the knuckleheads in Topeka than it is to the economic recession.

If you think the schools do not deserve the funding mandated by the courts then you should get busy and try and change the constitution of the state of Kansas. Have fun with that.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 5 months ago

Here is the a solution, eliminate the property tax exemption for not-for profits (including schools) and give the schools more money. The schools would be in the same shape but they will get more money, then they would have to explain what they spend it on instead of saying they need more money.

I know this will never happen but maybe there should be more from the schools instead of we need more money, we need more money. Why don't they go to the legislature and ask them to change some of the rules regarding capital outlay funds etc. If they have that would be great but all I hear is they want more money.

imastinker 8 years, 5 months ago

Money doesn't make a good education.

If this were accompanies by mandates about how the money is to be spent to improve education - then I might believe this could be about something other than just money.

Until then - I believe that every participating public employee should be fired and every organization that participates and recieves public funding should be defunded immediately - including school districts.

KSManimal 8 years, 5 months ago

commuter - schools DO have to explain what they spend money on. Districts must publish a detailed budget every year, accounting for every dollar.

imastinker - yes, you ARE. Not only that, but like commuter you haven't done your homework. First, money DOES make a good education. Here is the data to back that up:

Second, there ARE mandates as to how school districts spend money: mandates re - special education, intervention for at-risk students, curriculum requirements, instructional time, transportation, state assessments of students, staff development of teachers, and of course meeting requirements for accreditation based on performance and improvement. I could go on, but I'm guessing you stopped reading long ago.

avoice 8 years, 5 months ago

KSManimal: I'm not going to disagree at this point with your assertion that money DOES make a good education. But you need to cite more sources. Whether you are part of the school system in question or not, you surely can see how easy it is for the Association of School Boards to come up with propaganda that supports their views and their positions. This is no different than big insurance companies or big banks giving us the statistical proof that everything they do is right, fair and good. Hopefully what this country has been through the past couple of years has made people want to read between the lines and consider the sources before they accept propaganda at face value.

imastinker 8 years, 5 months ago

There is a lot of spending by schools that does not affect education a bit. Explain to me how school breakfast's, lunches, buses, sports, etc. affect education. The fact is that there are schools out there that are doing a better job educating out kids for less money.

We are currently looking at private schools that IMHO provide a much better education and do it at a lower cost. The average that I have seen in the area schools I have looked at is about $4500 per pupil. Compare that to the public schools, which are about twice that.

windex 8 years, 5 months ago

Stinker says: Explain to me how school breakfast's, lunches, buses, sports, etc. affect education.

Well, OK. Breakfast and lunch: How well do YOU concentrate when you haven't eaten breakfast and/or lunch? Kids whose families fail (for whatever reason) to provide meals for them don't do as well in school. This is about the easiest, cheapest academic fix there is.

Buses: You can't educate kids who don't have a way to get to school.

Sports, etc (not sure what you mean by etc, but I'm guessing you mean band, theater, debate, choir, clubs and so forth?): These activities all keep kids busy and developing new skills. If you look at the cost of these programs per child, per hour, they cost an absolute pittance.

Which private schools are you referring to? Please name them and tell how much they cost. Here are a couple: Bishop Seabury: almost $11,000 in tuition and fees, per year, per pupil, not including lunches. Raintree Montessori: nearly $6,000 per year for elementary students to attend 7 hours and 15 minutes per day. Pick your kid up late? $4 charge for each 5 minutes late. Kid is tardy in the morning? $3 charge for each 5 minutes tardy.

While it's possible that a private school might be able to educate YOUR kid for less money, to educate ALL kids (as in, the PUBLIC?) There isn't a better deal than the public school system, flawed and starving for cash though it may be.

imastinker 8 years, 5 months ago

Sacred Heart in Shawnee: 4300 per student for non parishioners

Saint Johns school on Kentucky: 2500-4500 per studend depending on age:

Corpus Christi on 15th: $4500 is the actual cost per student, not what parishioners pay.

Those numbers represent what independent schools are able to educate kids for without public funding. Note that many of them don't have bussing. One school in KCK doesn't serve lunches. Parents are requred to bring a lunch or come pick up their kid. Lots of things help kids learn but aren't the responsibility of schools. I bet homeless kids have a harder time studying outside of school also - should the school provide them a house so they can study more easily?

By the way - I have no problems with any of these activities - but parents should be paying the true cost of them for the kids, including use of the football field, band room (although that is a class, not an activity), shop class, etc...

Schools have completely lost their focus and are so busy providing services that they have neglected to give kids an education. Education is not a priority at many schools and that is what people are unhappy about. If you throw more money at it, they will just build new band rooms or football fields without doing anything to address the problem.

windex 8 years, 5 months ago

Stinker, the problem with the comparison is that it's really apples to oranges. I acknowledge that some of what the public schools do is providing services, but the problem is that some kids just aren't in a position to learn anything until other, more urgent, needs are addressed: transportation, food, mental health services, vision and hearing screening and referrals, learning the English language, etc. You can say that these things aren't the responsibility of the school, but trust me when I tell you that if you have a homeless, or non English-speaking, or malnourished, or severely mentally ill kid in class and no services for that child, it's going to have a direct, negative effect on the education of every other kid in that class.

In addition, consider the profound and profoundly expensive needs that some kids with disabilities have. You rarely find these kids in academically-oriented private schools. I know a Catholic family with several children, all of whom attend private Catholic school except for their youngest, who is profoundly disabled. She attends public school, because the Catholic school can't possibly meet her needs, and the public school can and does (partly because it is required by law to do so, regardless of expense.) Needless to say, it costs waaaaay more per year to educate her than it does her siblings.

I understand the inclination to say, "let's get back to basics and cut all these expensive frills", but even if we closed down all the public schools and put no-frills private schools in their place, we, as a society, would still have to deal all these things that, left unaddressed, keep students from achieving in school, from disability, to deadbeat parents, to lack of English mastery, etc.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 5 months ago

"Money doesn't make a good education." === Not completely, but it certainly helps. If this were true, rich districts would be giving much of their money away to those with more need. Not seeing much of that nationwide. There is a pretty clear correlation between finance and achievement, even in districts that serve desperate and needy students. A bit of research would confirm this. Education seems to be the only large enterprise in which it is alleged money doesn't matter. Can you find a businessman, military arms merchant or farmer who would argue the same? I think not.

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