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Opinion

Opinion

Teacher loss

The state can’t expect to maintain the quality of its public schools when it funds fewer teachers to serve more students.

November 10, 2011

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Statistics released last week by the Kansas State Department of Education offer a clear picture of at least one effect of recent state funding cuts for public schools.

While the number of students enrolled in Kansas schools rose by 9,701 this year, the total of all certified personnel working with those students declined by 277. Of those, 256 were classroom teachers.

Some state legislators have argued in recent years that public schools operate with bloated administrations that need to be trimmed. That certainly has occurred. Between the 2010-11 school year and the 2011-12 school year, the state lost two school superintendents, 11 associate or assistant superintendents, 28 principals and 15 assistant principals. Since the 2008-09 school year, the state has lost a total of 112 people in those four employment categories.

If state legislators wanted leaner, meaner administrative staffs at public schools, they’ve accomplished that goal.

How about for classroom teachers? The number of special education teachers dropped in the last two years, but rebounded this year to about the same level as in 2008-09. A modest increase also was reported in the number of vocational education teachers. However, in the last year, Kansas schools lost about 420 teachers in other areas.

How can Kansas schools preserve the quality of instruction they offer students with so many fewer teachers in the classrooms? Research has repeatedly documented the positive effect that smaller class size has on educational achievement. There is no doubt that the classroom teachers who have direct contact with students on a day-to-day basis are a critical part of individual students’ academic success.

Funding for public schools is a matter of priorities. There is no higher priority than recruiting and retaining high quality teachers and giving them classes that are small enough to manage and teach effectively. In the last four years, per-pupil state funding for public schools has declined by about 14 percent, from $4,400 per student to $3,780. Districts have cut the fat in their budgets and then some. It’s time to correct this dangerous trend.

Comments

kansasplains 3 years, 1 month ago

I completely agree with this Editorial. I grew up in Hutchinson, where we had small classes and GREAT teachers. It's a very important time for all young people - to have good teachers, and to have space to breathe in so that they can open as many different avenues as possible for themselves and for society.

And in that regard, why not have a much larger Opinion section every day of editorials from newspapers throughout Kansas? Just like this one - it should be read in every part of the state.

Kookamooka 3 years, 1 month ago

I disagree that administrators have been effected. Lawrence is looking to hire a CEO of Staff at 150K a year. Not exactly trimming at the top. More can be done and should at the admin level. They could hire two new teachers for the cost of that one administrator.

GMom05 3 years, 1 month ago

What the heck does a CEO of staff do? Isn't that Doll's job or to a lesser extent, Kim B., or Kyle Hayden's job? They're all probably too busy dealing with SBG and the Kobler Dog-and-Pony show. Or maybe dealing with all the consequences for pushing forth consolidation into middle schools so they could close more elementaries and deal with the ramifications of that mess. If they'd quit wreaking havoc in our district they could afford the time to do their jobs and we'd have two more teachers, not a CEO of Staff. 150 Grand, Sheesh!

FrameFace 3 years, 1 month ago

They could hire three to four teacher's at that cost. I wish teachers were paid $75K a year.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

Teachers should be paid more, much more.

KSManimal 3 years, 1 month ago

Kookamooka, you're wrong.

Total administrative costs amount to 5% of Lawrence's district budget:

http://www.usd497.org/AboutUs/SchoolBoard/Agenda/2010.11Archives/documents/20100809bhd/BudgetAAG.pdf

That bit of reality aside; if you think you can find any other entity - public or private - the size of USD 497 that pays its top leadership only ~ $150K then please share that with us.

ModerateOne 3 years, 1 month ago

Kansas government is much bigger than USD 497 and none of its middle managers make $150K.

Getaroom 3 years, 1 month ago

Great article! Too bad the obvious and known agenda of Sam Brownback was not accounted for before promoting him to his current status.

Keith 3 years, 1 month ago

Or in the case of this newspaper, the obvious and known agenda was ignored and Sam was endorsed.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

Seriously? You're surprised?

We should take the $15 million for the unnecessary new rec center (minus Self's little portion) and save it for education. Brownback is going to cut state education funding and has stated he expects local governments to pick up the slack. Education is already cut to the bone so we'll have to do it.

How many teachers can we hire for $14 million?

KSManimal 3 years, 1 month ago

"How many teachers can we hire for $14 million?"

About 375, but only if you don't want to keep them more than a year.

aryastark1984 3 years, 1 month ago

This is a crime. It is a crime perpetrated against our children and the future of KS. Let's not forget what is going on right now. The state has a SURPLUS. They could put that money back into schools. But, that is not even on the table. Instead, the surplus is seen as evidence that are taxes are too high and the thugs in Topeka are pushing to eliminate the state income tax altogether. The explicit goal is to make KS more like TX.

As someone who has lived in that state let me tell you a few dirty secrets.

1) The public schools are terrible. If you live in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio (etc) and you want your child to get a good education, you pay (a lot) out of pocket for private schools. 2) Don't kid yourself about paying less. $ has to come from somewhere and the somewhere is property tax. We pay much less in property taxes in KS than in TX, despite owning a house that has a house with a higher value.

aryastark1984 3 years, 1 month ago

Let's not let facts stand in the way of a good argument. Private schools do well to the extent that they can select for smart and motivated kids and kick them out if they are a problem in the classroom. Unfortunately, we are mandated to educate ALL kids, not just the cream of the crop.

Oh, and when you compare public and private schools on standardized tests, only about 1/3 do any better than public schools.

KSManimal 3 years, 1 month ago

"Can you tell us specifically what laws were broken?"

KSA 72-64c03, KSA 72-64c04, and KSA 72-8814

And also case law:

Mock v. Kansas (1991), Unified School District Number 229 v. State (1994), and most recently the Montoy v. State of Kansas.

Montoy v. State of Kansas determined that the constitution requires Kansas’ public education system to be one which “advances to a better quality or state”, rather than remaining static or regressive.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't want Kansas to be more like Texas. I want Kansas to be the opposite of Texas.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

And now the city commission things we need to spend $15 million on a new rec center!!!!!

Brownback is restructuring educational funding so that more of the money will have to be raised locally. That means more local taxes for education. It's coming.

So we do NOT have the extra money for a frill - yes it's a FRILL - like yet another rec center.

Eileen Jones 3 years, 1 month ago

I think keeping classes small is the most important place for education money to go. It makes a huge difference in the quality of education.

If we got rid of the disastrous No Child Left Behind altogether this state would save millions - and we should.

KU_cynic 3 years, 1 month ago

I don't dispute the facts that enrollment is up by 9701 students or that teacher count is down by 277 certified personnel. I can't seem to find the source report or data at the KSDE website (that would have been a good link, LJW), but I reckon that the student count increase is about 1.9% over the 2010-11 figures, and the personnel decrease is about 0.6%.

In other words, for every 100 students last year there are 2 more this year, and for every 165 personnel there is one fewer this year. The combined change in student-to-personnel ratio is from 12.18 to 12.49.

How much of that personnel decrease is from "right-sizing" schools that are too small (like in Lawrence) to bigger more efficient schools? How much of the student enrollment change is from counting "virtual" home-schooled students who demand fewer public personnel to serve than those students who attend public schools "literally"? How much of the enrollment increase is from larger more vibrant school districts filling out to already employedcapacity?

In short, focusing on those two numbers -- 277 fewer education personnel and 9701 more students -- masks a lot of useful information that is otherwise missing. I'm not suggesting that information would add to or detract from the "our schools need more resources" argument, just that more information is really needed to assess the needs of our schools in an era of limited state and community resources.

Kyle Chandler 3 years, 1 month ago

Someday we'll take a cue from Colorado, the state next to us swimming in extra revenue.......until then i guess we'll have bakesales for schools.

50Percent 3 years, 1 month ago

Where are you getting that information? Colorado is looking at cutting 200 million from Public Schools and it's 49th in funding post-secondary education. As a teacher in the Jefferson County schools, I took a 3% pay cut this year and they need to cut another 70 million from the budget for next year. Colorado is a mess.

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