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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

Kyle Chandler 2 years, 5 months 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.

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KU_cynic 2 years, 5 months 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.

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Stain 2 years, 5 months 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.

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Stain 2 years, 5 months 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.

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aryastark1984 2 years, 5 months 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.

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Paul R Getto 2 years, 5 months ago

GaR: I agree, and Muscular Sam's agenda was well known and popular. It's no secret he and his handlers want to get rid of most government and sell the parts they decide to keep back to their buddies. The 30-some percent of those eligible to pick a governor voted him in. Maybe next August, when it really counts, slightly less than 80% will stay home and we can increase participation. I'm optimistic, but won't hold my breath. Even Douglas County, where people seem interested in politics except on election day has a dismal turnout. If we continue the trend where about 10% pick primary winners and 25% pick national winners, this tradition will probably continue.

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Getaroom 2 years, 5 months ago

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

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Kookamooka 2 years, 5 months 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.

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kansasplains 2 years, 5 months 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.

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