Archive for Friday, December 25, 2009

School districts urged not to sue over funding

Education leaders shouldn’t be ‘greedy and selfish,’ state board member writes

December 25, 2009


— State Board of Education member Walt Chappell has written school districts, urging them not to sue the state over funding cuts to Kansas public schools.

“Clearly, this is not the time to appear greedy and selfish when most Kansas families, businesses and government agencies at all levels are suffering,” Chappell said in the e-mail, which was sent out last week.

Chappell’s e-mail has prompted an angry response from some school officials.

Santa Fe Trail School Board President Randy Boudeman said that many of Chappell’s statements in the e-mail are incorrect and that recent budget cuts implemented by the state are cheating Kansas school children.

“Without question they are paying the price for a problem they did not create,” Boudeman said. “I truly figured our State Board would be in the lead to stop this. It’s disappointing to me that you are not.”

Santa Fe Trail Superintendent Steve Pegram was more blunt.

“Mr. Chappell, unless you can propose a way to replace the over $800,000 of revenue the Santa Fe Trail School District has lost since January of 2009, I again respectfully ask you to mind your own business and begin advocating for the students of Kansas, instead of advocating for the Kansas Legislature!”

The issue of school finance promises to be an explosive one during the 2010 legislative session that starts Jan. 11.

The current state budget crisis has resulted in five rounds of budget cuts this year to many areas of state government, including $241 million to schools.

Members of a coalition of more than 70 school districts voted last week on a resolution to ask the Kansas Supreme Court to reopen a school finance lawsuit filed in 1999. That lawsuit led to orders from the state Supreme Court in 2005 and 2006 that forced funding increases to public schools. The group is called Schools for Fair Funding.

In his e-mail, Chappell repeats an assertion he has made that school districts had nearly $700 million in fund balances at the start of the fiscal year to handle cash flow problems. Education officials have said approximately half of those funds must be spent for specific purposes, such as paying off bonds. And they have noted that in addition to handling budget cuts, school districts have had to deal with the state delaying several major school payments because of falling tax revenues.

Contacted by telephone Thursday, Chappell, a Democrat from Wichita, said he was not speaking for the 10-member State Board of Education.

He said he sent the e-mail to approximately 30 of the larger school districts that have joined Schools for Fair Funding.

He said he has received both positive and negative responses.

“There are quite a few of us on the State Board and in the Legislature who believe this is not the time to sue anybody,” he said.

Schools for Fair Funding, however, has said suing the state is the lesser of two evils.

“Turning to the courts for redress is less harmful to our kids than shorting them of their education,” said John Robb, an attorney who represents Schools for Fair Funding.


getreal 8 years, 4 months ago

When did it become selfish to protect the educational rights afforded by the constitution? Mr. Chappell is a disappointment as a member of the State Board of Education. The role of the SBOE is to advocate on behalf of all kids. Did Mr. Chappell take a cut in his travel reimbursements? How dare he take taxpayer money when so many are suffering, and we are cutting educational programs.

Centerville 8 years, 4 months ago

Suffering because our school district (and Topeka's and Wichita's and Salina's) can only spend $1.5 million eacb this year for undeveloped land? Suffering because, across Kansas, school districts are sitting on $1.2 billion in cash deposits that have no intended purpose?

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

Such whining from the anti-tax peanut gallery. Don't you have any sense of what it takes to run a business (yes, schools are a business)? How many businesses in this state have 447,615.1 legally mandated clients? That's how many school children there were in last fiscal year in Kansas. Now, according to the whiners, schools are supposed to educate these children for the future on NO MONEY? That appears to be the only sought-after conclusion, because no matter how little schools might spend, these same people would keep on whining and sniveling.

Now, regarding the $1.2 billion in unearmarked cash reserves (as you put it, "no intended purpose"). Where do you get this crap? From your equally illiterate buddies? Or did you sound it out slowly from some newspaper report that told the "sound bite" broad paintbrush story that makes for sexy headlines? Do you really think private businesses have no capital reserves from which to pay their bills? Here's a short lesson on the biggest part of the money you're whining about. As of June 30, 2009 (end of Fiscal Year 2009) school districts in Kansas held the following in reserve:

Capital Outlay $451,672,840 (or $1,009.07 per pupil) Special Education $183,341,090 ($409.60 per pupil) Food Service $41,223,348 ($92.10 per pupil) Contingency Reserve $175,712,033 ($492.55 per pupil).

Now remember, this money is for 447,615.1 clients! And pay attention to the amounts per pupil. Doesn't sound so huge that way, does it? There's not enough space here to explain how that money ISN'T being hoarded and DOES have an intended use, but here's just one example: a single roof replacement on a school costs at least several hundred thousand dollars--and you're complaining that schools have $1,009.07 per pupil in reserve for capital outlay? GROW UP! (or at least YOU go sit outside in the cold rain and see how you like it). Oh, and one other little kicker: we're now nearly on the backside of Fiscal Year 2010, and some of the money above has been spent--so the fund balances and amounts per pupil in reserve are lower than the audited figures shown above.

I could go on, but I've truly enjoyed irritating you. Merry Christmas!

BikerGrandma 8 years, 4 months ago

Finanace - thank you for breaking everything down. Hopefully Mr. Chappell will read it and get a clue. He needs to go back to Wichita and get off the State Board of Education. While I was not in favor of suing the state in the past, I am now as it seems like that is the only way to force the state to quit cutting our funding and quit playing games with our children's education.

imastinker 8 years, 4 months ago

Pilgrim - you could look at detroit as well. spending higher than Kansas per pupil and a 25% graduation rate. Private schools in the area routinely educate kids on less money than public schools.

This is not about educating kids, it's about money.

KsTwister 8 years, 4 months ago

Shoot, I would rather they try so the state can audit the money that was spent and where it was spent in order for the school districts to ask for more. It did not go for educating that's for certain.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 4 months ago

It may be a valid message, but being heard from this guy, it will be ignored.

Chappell is a class-A idiot, and hanger-around Topeka Capitol for years. He moved to Wichita where few knew him so he finally got elected to something. But he is still a class-A idiot. And everyone who deals with him knows.

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

Why would anybody take a single case--in this instance, KCMO--and hold it up as proof positive of the failure of an entire national education system? Looks like whoever would do that is busily seeking an effigy--any effigy, no matter how incorrectly characterized--to hang in public. Hey Pilgrim, have you participated in any public stonings lately? No, you say? Well, yes I say--you're trying to stone public education because you managed to read a whole article (wow, I admire your doggedness!) about the Kansas City public schools and were overawed and immediately convinced by whatever nitwit wrote it.

The challenges faced by public schools today are overwhelming (in significant part because you keep having children, but also because the social problems created by tax misers have made the disadvantages children face nearly insurmountable). I'd suggest you know a little more about public education before you nuke it--clearly, it didn't do much for you (maybe that's the source of your bitterness), or maybe--even worse--you're a beneficiary of a good public school education but are now showing your true Judas colors by now attacking and abandoning the system that served you well. In either case, you're irredeemable and are irrelevant--it's the sizable subset of the population that gullibly follows your twisted logic that really concerns me--i.e., you just don't matter as an individual, but you matter as a collection of fools.

I'm sorry this society has become so divided. At some point, division cannot be reconciled. Maybe we should go back to the 1700s--the misglorified early days of this nation--when there were two kinds of schools--private schools, and pauper schools. Now, before you giggle inanely or cheer idiotically, ask yourself--where would your children be relegated--to the private schools at great expense to you, or to the public schools (now, go to your dictionary and look up the word "pauper" before running off at the mouth about how good the old days were and everybody donated the land and materials and labor to build the shanties you'd like to see children 2009, for God's sake). Merry Christmas!

wastewatcher 8 years, 4 months ago

It is amazing how the Superintendents rally to their own defense to line their own pockets. How much are they making and how much have they paid their lawyer in the last ten years? Remember when those receiving the benefits of taxes are doing better than those paying the taxes, you have a problem.

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

You think I'm a superintendent? Wroooooonnnngggg! Oh, and yeah--educators are public servants--emphasis on "SERVANT"--look up the word and see its etymology--related words include servile, subservient, blah, blah, blah. Oh, and the job of a superintendent is soooo easy and soooo under-deserved...a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, a license (actually two licenses in most cases), in many cases a doctorate degree, experience as a teacher, principal, and superintendent-- along with having to convince a board of education to hire you--see? It's bizarrely easy! Everyone can do it!!!!! I have an idea--why don't you go do ALL of it, and then you'll be part of the corrupted "establishment" too? Perfect solution for your inarticulateness. Yeah, that's what I thought--you can't...What? Not qualified to be a critic? Surprise!!!!!!!!!

vwelch 8 years, 4 months ago

Hooray finance! You took the words right out of my mouth!

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 4 months ago

The more I read finance's posts the more I wonder the following:

  1. Whicjh districts is his/her employer??
  2. Does finance work for the Kansas Department of Education??
  3. Which school board does finance sit on??

bluerain 8 years, 4 months ago

yep, he sure gets his knickers in a knot on the subject matter.

KsTwister 8 years, 4 months ago

"Such whining from the anti-tax peanut gallery."

The lions share of our taxes are going to the schools--not to the city to fix the streets (they have their own ills to be sure) but the taxes we pay do not go to our children or for better teachers. It is invested in buildings,property and sports complexes; none of which are giving them the best possible education. In the '70's and '80's our achievement scores of our children were above the national percentile for most of the kids . Now of course it is obvious that our board of education cannot maintain that level and they choose to accelerate athletics instead and let the students get their real education if they go on to college. Just google Lawrence High and read it all. The papers use to give us pride in the achievements of ALL our kids not so now. Someone dropped the ball and it was not in the atlethic department either. We just don't approve of sports taxes,plain and simple.

honestone 8 years, 4 months ago

This closing school issue hasn't just cropped up...the board has been reaching for bigger and bigger grade schools for a VERY long time. Isn't weird that they wanted their high school smaller but it's OK if the grade schools are bigger. The name Loveland should ring a bell... 1. I know for a fact that Cordely has now and has always had multi-class grade levels. 2. The issue that kept Cordley open was that it is the best "special-ed" schools around. 3. Where could they send the Cordley kids without building a new SUPER school... 4. My understanding is that Cordley has a very historic stature but the board doesn't want it designated as a historic structure. 5. AFTER the board spent MILLIONS to build the NEW sports arenas (we know it was different color money) how can they have the gonads to tell us they don't have enough money. 6. You have a lot of data "finance". would you care to tell us who you are that you have this info?

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

Toe: get a new line--you've used that one before ("the Kansas Constitution must be changed"), and the reality that you can't string more than 6 words together is getting boring. Give up and go back to your cave.

KsTwister: achievement was NOT higher in the 1970s and 1980s. The metric for comparison has changed to a global one--there was always an achievement gap when measuring on an international level.

Commuter: quit guessing. None of your choices is correct, and you're proving yourself a very bad psychic. Try being a tattoo artist--I hear it's better money than fortune-telling.

Bluerain: actually, you've done most of the ranting recently-- I argue with hard facts, while you argue with emotion--poorly prepared emotion when it comes to defensibility, I would add. Anger isn't a basis for convincing anyone except a lynch mob. Is that what you're trying to accomplish?

Everyone (almost): I know I'm wasting my breath here, but it's fun to do intellectual battle with the unequipped. And FYI, I pay my ad valorum property taxes on the last due date--i.e., December 20 and May 10 because I don't want to give up "my" money until the last second. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the need to be a responsible citizen--children are our future, and they don't deserve to be punished because we (adults) don't like our citizenship duties. So YOU grow up--I already did.

Again, I'm wasting my breath because no one's opinion will ever be changed by facts--attitudes are nearly immutable in the vast majority of cases. But it's amusing to toy with those of you who are flying by the seat of your pants and can't argue with data. Merry Christmas!

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 4 months ago

Finance- Nice try. Your guess is way off. As a CPA - Certified Public Accountant- I have spent a long time understanding budgets and audits. So far, the school district budgets have been the biggest waste of paper because they do not tell you anything.

Maybe one day you will tell the rest of us what you do for a living.??? Maybe not. I can understand you being scared.

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

commuter: Read more carefully (I would have thought a CPA would have a better eye for microscopic detail). I didn't actually say you ARE a fortune-teller--it just looks like your hobby, and a bad choice of avocations given your apparent lack of prescience. As far as being "scared"?--I'm many years beyond that. Quoting you: "nice try".

Actually, if you are a CPA and understand school district financial statements and audits, you'll know that school district budgets are very clear--they show revenue/expenditure on a multi-year basis so that cash position and other obligations are revealed/trended over time. And school districts, due to state reduction pressures and shameful penury, are showing declining balance sheets in an alarming way. And you actually--as a CPA--can be assumed to think this is a good idea? God help your clients--I surely don't wish to become one of your victims.

As far as my own profession, just call me a sensible citizen--nothing else matters in this free forum where no income results from anything proffered. Sorry, I don't fall for bait: surely you can't afford to be wasting your $250/hr billable hours in a democratic forum...or maybe you don't make that much money on an hourly basis? Just a rhetorical question...your peers charge on that basis. :)

KSManimal 8 years, 4 months ago

"Pilgrim - you could look at detroit as well. spending higher than Kansas per pupil and a 25% graduation rate. Private schools in the area routinely educate kids on less money than public schools.

This is not about educating kids, it's about money."

imastinker -

Yes, you are! And, as usual, your homework skills are quite lacking. What source do you use for your data about Detroit?

You are right that it IS about money - but wrong that it isn't about educating kids. You see, to educate kids COSTS MONEY! You can't hire staff, build and maintain facilities, purchase supplies and books, etc., for free. It all costs money.

Furthermore, the comparison to private schools is as stale as it is lame. Sure, private schools can turn out great kids for less money. Then again, private schools aren't held to a laundry list of unfunded mandates the way public schools are. Nor are private schools required to educate any kid who walks in the door. Kid not doing well? Expel them, problem "solved" (a.k.a. passed back to the public schools). Public schools are charged with educating ALL students, not just those they hand-pick for success. In fact, public schools are held accountable for educating kids who don't even show up.

If you ask me, you and many (most) others who sign in here to attack public education must have had some traumatic childhood experience with schools. Just think, if schools had the money at the time....perhaps you wouldn't have fallen through the cracks.......

situveux1 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't understand finance flying off the handle. All that was said was that KC, MO schools didn't improve when a court ordered massive amounts of additional spending, and that's true. In fact Kansas test scores haven't risen significantly since court ordered spending increases in 2005, so that would be more evidence that money doesn't always equal smarter kids.

It's also true that private schools, in general, educate children better for less money. But I'll also note that those kids generally are not problem kids & come from stable families. I think if schools have problems they can't all be solved with money.

And it's also true that a 2010 Commission audit, voluntarily asked for by Derby schools, showed that statewide their accounting practices are a mess. There is no standardization between districts & no way to compare costs & income between districts.

Those are facts & you can argue them, that's fine, but there's quite a bit of evidence out there that Kansas schools have horrible accounting practices & that more money doesn't always mean better schools or smarter kids.

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

I do not now...nor have I ever...argued that an exactly proportional increase in pupil achievement will follow after a given increase in spending. But it is nonsensical to argue that less money will result in no harm. Think about it: will harm follow at your home if your income is reduced? Of course it will. Now, apply the reverse: less money for schools means less focused resources, if for no other reason than class sizes will increase, lowered levels of personalized attention will follow, and the neediest children (who consume a major proportion of school resources) will be increasingly underserved. And particularly so since increases in school spending over the last decade have largely been directed toward the most educationally needy children (special education, socially disadvantaged, linguistically challenged, economically at-risk, etc). Again, think about it! How hard can it be to understand that starting from behind with underprivileged children costs more and takes longer to arrive at the desired outcome? Jeez. But again, here I am blowing my uncompensated time trying to convince people who are happy with their self-constructed untruths... :)

finance 8 years, 4 months ago

I'd guess NO ONE would argue that more money absent anything else is the sole answer. I have never made such an argument--social science is far too complex for single injectable fixes. But far too many people have joyfully quit listening upon arriving at the over-simplistic conclusion that if money isn't everything, then money is nothing at all.

It's been fun, but as I've said many times, arguing here changes no one's mind and is only a form of personal amusement when watching the kneejerk reactions and hearing the half-truths of armchair experts. I never expected anyone to change his/her mind as a result of my thoughts-- I've only engaged a public forum as a dutiful citizen and for evening musings about important social matters. So, no more words of wisdom from me. I'll end my participation here with a quotation from the RAND people (maybe you recognize the name and have some respect for that institution? If not, okay by me). Here's a quotation from 2007 that fairly makes my point:

"Differences in average achievement levels across states are mainly traceable to differing family characteristics. However, students from similar families also score differently across states. These differences are related to differences in resource levels and in how resources are spent. States with high spending per pupil, lower pupil-teacher ratios, higher participation in public prekindergarten and higher reported teacher resources have higher achievement. Disadvantaged children are the most sensitive to low resource, and additional resources could substantially their scores."

I conclude that using KCMO, DC, etc., is not a legitimate vehicle by which to attack spending for all of public education--try removing all the economically advantaged children from the Lawrence public schools and then objectively observe the possible effect on test scores. Or try moving thousands of economically advantaged children into the KCMO and DC public schools and then observe the possible effect on test scores. Notice President Obama's children are in a fine private school, and there are many other leaders who have made the same choice. So yes, in my case it is about wanting a fine future for each child, and for their sake it has to be about the money because it makes a difference. Happy New Year--sincerely.

situveux1 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't think money is nothing, it certainly is something we should be discussing.

How much money should it take to educate Kansas kids? Give us a number, a hard number, and then we can discuss from there.

KsTwister 8 years, 4 months ago

They won't give that number because for them to separate athletics from academics is totally impossible for them to do that. They love their schools in the paper ---when it comes to sports. That is the only way they see it.

Finance obviously you haven't had kids go through this system for the last 20 years or you would know that.

situveux1 8 years, 3 months ago

That's a great point.

The other reason people like finance won't give a number is because they don't have one. If they were to give a hard number, and it was met, then they'd be in the intellectual position of having to stop complaining about school finance, and that's a position they can't be in. To continue the call for more money, they must never say how much more they want.

finance 8 years, 3 months ago

To my critics: your attacks are far too simple (see above criticisms). A hard number has to always be a moving target. To put it in laypersons' terms, how many people (in their jobs) expect a raise the next year to stay current with expenses? The answer: 100% of people or nearly that number. So quit asking "how much" as if you can lock in something eternal, since the target will move every year.

What I will offer here as a peace symbol is that the science behind how much is enough isn't very exact. See my other posts saying that money isn't the only answer--simply that it has to be a huge part of the answer due to how the social disadvantage equation works. Poor children need much more in order to overcome economic and social disadvantage--how difficult can that be to understand? I have never argued wealthy children need vastly more, but I do argue that poor children need much more than the current system offers, and I further argue that ALL children--rich and poor alike--deserve the very best life has to offer. Consider the alternative: teaching children that life is crap and that making every child in the future suffer because today's child's bad lot in life means all children yet to be schooled should learn the same hard lesson? What kind of society is that? What kind of justice is that? More appropriately, what kind of mean-spirited justice (no, vengeful retribution!) is that? Instead, how about teaching all children that becoming an adult means taking personal responsibility to support/nurture all future children in every possible way? So NO--in the end, there will never be enough money--but sorry, I'm not securing your point--rather, it's that money is never enough to make a child's future bright. Sorry, I'm stubborn on this point. Quit thinking about the money and think about all children as if they were your own (although I admit some people will mistreat their own children, either from neglect or disinterest, or out of sheer callousness).

Tracy Rogers 8 years, 3 months ago

• Since 2000, school district budgets and state aid have increased by 42 percent. At the same time, student proficiency in reading increased by 42 percent, math by 61 percent, science by 53 percent and history/government by 43 percent on state assessments.

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