Archive for Monday, October 8, 2012

School cuts haven’t made a difference, group told

October 8, 2012


— A task force appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback to recommend ways to make school spending more efficient started its work on Monday, hearing from a group that has been a constant critic of how schools spend money.

Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, told the task force that recent cuts in school funding haven’t made a difference in the academic performance of students.

“Certainly money matters. You can’t take it all away,” Trabert said. “But simply spending a little less is not going to have an impact on outcomes. Or spending more.”

KPI describes itself as “an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans.”

Trabert was scheduled to speak to the task force for two and a half hours. He was to be followed by Mark Tallman, a lobbyist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, and then Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis, who were each allotted one and a half hours.

Brownback appointed the 10-member commission last month, saying, “We need more money in the classroom and less in administration and overhead costs.”

On Monday, the task force heard from Trabert and then broke for lunch in another room. Joined by Trabert, the task force members questioned him further. Then Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer addressed the task force and reiterated the governor’s position in making schools more efficient.

“This is an issue that is very important to Sam and me,” Colyer said. One of the task force members, Dave Jackson, who is a former Republican state senator from Topeka, said he hoped Brownback would be able to use the task force recommendations. He said former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, would establish task forces that didn’t “accomplish a thing.”

In setting up the task force, the governor’s office said that only 15 of the state’s 286 school districts complied with a state law that requires at least 65 percent of state funds be spent in the classroom. But there is no such legal requirement, and school officials released a report that showed based on state funding, all school districts were surpassing the 65 percent level.

Democrats also criticized Brownback, a Republican, for not appointing anyone on the task force who works in a school, such as a teacher, principal, administrator or school finance officer. The task force is dominated by CPAs, including Brownback’s budget director, Steve Anderson. Brownback has said he wanted financial experts to look at school finance.

With state revenue expected to be tight because of the massive tax cut signed into law by Brownback, and the fact that public school finance makes up half of the state budget, supporters of school funding have been fearful of what will happen to school budgets in the next legislative session.

At the outset of the task force meeting, Chairman Ken Willard, a Republican from Hutchinson, said he realized the panel would be working in a political environment, but he said he would do his best “to see we are not distracted by politics.”

He also said that some have said the objective of the task force was to recommend a cut in school funding. But, Willard said, reducing the state’s commitment to education “is not our purpose.”

Meanwhile, in a separate news conference, House Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said two school reforms that will probably be considered next session include legislation making major changes to teacher tenure and vouchers that would allow tax dollars or tax credits to be used to send students to private and parochial schools.

Of school vouchers, Rhoades said, “It’s like a tidal wave that is coming. A lot of parents love that.”


hyperinflate 5 years, 2 months ago

"[X],an independent think-tank that advocates [Y]"

C'mon thinking people. Isn't this sentence alone enough to make you be suspicious of both [X] and [Y], regardless of what they are?

cowboy 5 years, 2 months ago

So we have a batch of accountants who are going to figure it all out. Im sixty one and I remember an orderly classroom , no kids on meds , no IEP's, no children who would dare strike out at a teacher. There were no kids that required diapers , or one on one full time staff. Parents were involved .

If our teachers could truly concentrate on teaching without having to also deal with the all of the behavioral issues that are in the classrooms today the job would be quite simple.

The fact of the matter is that the schools are not staffed to deal with all these other needs and the simpletons in the state legislature and the Governors task force are convinced that the schools are just wasting money. come spend a day in the teachers shoes folks.

Teach a class of thirty while trying to manage a couple of behavioral disorders. I would bet you they would quit after one day.

Support our teachers and properly fund and staff our schools. They have a daunting job and deserve every bit of support we can give them.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Yes, pretending that kids with disabilities didn't exist was a better solution, wasn't it? Kick them out. Institutionalize them. We already know that nobody with an early diagnosis of MR and classroom behavior issues could grow up to be a PhD and... oops. I guess they could.

BTW, it isn't the "behavior issues" that keep scores down. It's poverty. Schools in poor neighborhoods almost universally score lower than schools in rich neighborhoods in this country. It was true during your time, too. Gonna kick out the poor kids?

cowboy 5 years, 2 months ago

Nope , you missed the point , put the staff into the schools to deal with it , dont expect the existing system to absorb it without impact. The other issue is the complete lack of parental maturity / stability for a large portion of these kids. Its a shame. Many of these kids simply do not have a chance.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Ah, misunderstood you. I apologize. I thought you were arguing for separate schools. They used to do that when I was in school. There was a separate room in a separate school where they'd bus all the kids with MR, and we wouldn't see them all day. I like the fact that a kid with Down Syndrome can be elected prom king now.

The whole voucher thing drives me crazy, because it's essentially the same segregation solution, only making it voluntary.

Not only do classes need the staff to deal with disabilities, they need to have the issues of poverty dealt with as well, and I'm really not sure what we can do. We may have reached our limit with what we can do in the classroom, and now we need to focus on improving the community. Not that that will ever happen under this administration, either.

booyalab 5 years, 2 months ago

Most kids would learn more in the real world. Public school is not about education, it's a government mandated and funded babysitting service.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

I see you haven't been educated in one lately.

melott 5 years, 2 months ago

And so, why the flat screen TVs in the lunch room?

GardenMomma 5 years, 2 months ago

Which school has flat screen TVs in the lunchroom? And are they used for watching television or something else, like a computer screen to display important notices?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Kinda like Big Bird, right? Ditch a few TVs and a billion dollar problem is solved.

Kate Rogge 5 years, 2 months ago

I object to public tax monies being spent on private schools. Vouchers are intended to rob the public to pay private vendors.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Dave still hasn't stated with any specificity what he would cut out of schools in order to make the even more drastic cuts that we all know is the goal of the Koch Bros front group that employs him.

deec 5 years, 2 months ago

They don't have to. They're already working up the legislation to implement the facts they'll be finding.

"Meanwhile, in a separate news conference, House Appropriations Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said two school reforms that will probably be considered next session include legislation making major changes to teacher tenure and vouchers that would allow tax dollars or tax credits to be used to send students to private and parochial schools.

Of school vouchers, Rhoades said, “It’s like a tidal wave that is coming. A lot of parents love that.”

Pass vouchers and attack teachers and unions. There's a surprise.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Same ALEC legislation they tried for last year. Same guy, too, I'm pretty sure. Now that they've kicked out all the Republicans with common sense, they'll probably get it through.

Bob Burton 5 years, 2 months ago

Hey Scott,

Why did you leave out that the schools are going to get a couple hundred million dollars more this year than last year?? Oh, that does not fit your agenda does it!!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Actually, it was raised by less than $100 million, which is nowhere near enough to make up for the cuts of the last several years.

But why didn't Scott mention that? Perhaps because it wasn't mentioned in the meeting that this story is about?

Centerville 5 years, 2 months ago

I like the voucher idea. Just in time to allow parents to rescue their children from 'Common Core.' I mean, come on, what a ridiculous name, for starters.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Money won't matter one way or the other? Find me a military or business leader who will say that. Only schools seem to need to defend this principle. When the USSR fell, the John Birchers (AKA the Kochs) needed a new enemy. They picked schools and the poor and the battle has been raging for 30+ years. Mr. Trabert carries on this tradition.

deec 5 years, 2 months ago

Since money doesn't matter, Congress should pass a law limiting corporate CEO pay to 10 times whatever the lowest paid employees make.

Congressional and state legislative pay should be slashed 90%. After all, they like teachers and other public employees, should be in it for the public good rather than personal aggrandizement.

oldbaldguy 5 years, 2 months ago

So where do you find a private school to use your voucher on in Healy, Kansas?

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

You'll just get to take a crappy online class like the rest of the kids in towns that can no longer support public schools.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

It's the kids' fault for having been born in a rural backwater.

spiderd 5 years, 2 months ago

This group is extremely frightening. They do not even know what they're dealing with... and they get Trabert first and foremost for 2-1/2 hours? Why? Why him and his group? This is a sham.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago

Of course it's a sham. Another way to pay off cronies and to try to fool people.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago

Down here in District 72 we're trying very hard to get Mr Rhoades unelected. Probably can't say much more than that on these boards, but we can use all the help we can get. Glenda Reynolds, who supports educational opportunities for all, is running against him.

It's not just about our district, it would benefit the whole state to get rid of him. In his first two elections he didn't win by many votes---the last one the person didn't campaign much---and Rhoades is very unpopular with even some conservative Republicans here.

Paul R Getto 5 years, 2 months ago

Public agencies are not necessarily a business. If schools could pick and choose like a business, the analogy would do better. Since schools must take all children, they cannot operate like a business. KPI wants to solve this with charters, who will be allowed to discriminate.

Kate Rogge 5 years, 2 months ago

When students are sorted between private and public schools - all paid for with public money - we'll have separate and unequal once more in Kansas schools. And, undoubtedly, an ALEC state law and legislators who support that.

verity 5 years, 2 months ago

I don't think anyone has argued that we shouldn't look for ways to be more efficient. I think everybody wants that. It's the fact that the people who actually do the work and know what's going on are not being consulted. That rarely, if ever, turns out well. I've seen it happen way too often and the results are expensive payments and stupid, unworkable ideas that may be expensive to implement. This task force has no one on it that knows diddly about the subject at hand.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 2 months ago

The "fat" was cut out years ago. It's down to bone now.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

If you would like to see the facts and efficiency opportunities presented yesterday, a copy of the my presentation is online at

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 2 months ago

Those cute graphs and placards are nothing but superficial attempts at mass distraction.

You fail to show how slashing funding to schools (and be honest, that is your one and only agenda) will result in better schools, and better educational outcomes.

I bet that when you were in school the dog ate a whole lot of your homework.

cowboy 5 years, 2 months ago

With all due respect , Dave , why don't you find something to do with your life that will contribute to the betterment of society. Honestly how do you sleep at night.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Ok, let's do this.

"Regional" Regional apparently includes the states that touch us plus Texas but not Arkansas or Iowa. Convenient. You also use 4th grade reading as your only metric. It looks like Kansas outperforms two schools it outspends and underspends one of the schools that outperforms us. Huh. Looks like the data doesn't say what you claim it says, but talk fast and click through the slide quickly.....

Also funny: ACT scores. That's a voluntary test that only kids wanting to enter a regional university will take. It does not correlate to spending, nor should it. You should know better, and I bet you do.

The dip in state spending looks like it was the year it was shifted around from ARRA funds, so it's carefully parsed to say that it's a reduction in "state" spending. Nice framing there. Not that a single year reduction would be enough to find a correlation, since the students being tested would still have benefited from the cumulative spending in the preceding years, and the data doesn't list whether or not local spending was used to make up any total shortfalls, anyway. Misleading data R Us.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

We include Texas because that state is often cited by those who are concerned that income tax reductions (Texas has no income tax) would cause test scores to drop to the level of Texas. The truth is that Texas has slightly better scores than Kansas on most student cohorts and grade levels.

We included ACT because the Kansas Association of School Boards recently claimed that a 0.1 drop in Kansas' composite score for 2012 was caused by spending reductions. Obviously, that is not true.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

And if the KS Association of School boards complained about ACT scores, I'd tell them the same thing. It's a voluntary test. It's dumb to tie it to funding levels, either direction, unless you also start telling all kids to take it.

You include Texas because it is convenient. You include 4th grade reading and do a black/hispanic comparison because it is also convenient. For instance, Kansas is better than Texas in 8th grade reading scores and also when compared by reduced lunch eligibility. You didn't include that data, because it wouldn't have emphasized your foregone conclusion.

Texas does have an advantage in efficiency that they can purchase their textbooks in bulk. Can't say I care much for their selection of which content to exclude, however.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

Wrong again. You cannot compare overall state average scores for the same reason you cannot compare Blue Valley with Kansas City, Kansas. There are unnecessary but quite significant achievement gaps between white students, students of color, low income, etc. Comparison of average scores are only valid if the demographic mix is nearly identical.

We published a comparison of states' scores on NAEP and their per-pupil spending at

The complete NAEP data shows that Texas does slightly better than Kansas with most cohorts. We looked at the four large cohorts (White, Hispanic, African American and Low Income) for 4th grade and 8th grade Reading and Math...16 different measurements.

Texas did better on 12 measurements, Kansas did better on 2 (Low Income for 8th grade Reading and Low Income for 4th Grade Math) and the states tied on 8th grade Reading for Hispanics and 4th grade Math for Hispanics.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Once again, I said compared by reduced lunch eligibility. As in comparing poverty levels, not race. Texas has very different demographics than Kansas. Comparison of just ethnic backgrounds is misleading. And yet that's just what you did in that slide. Seriously, you cherry picked a data point to make your ideological argument, and here you're conceding that Kansas does better than Texas for low income students. Seriously, you're making my point for me!

Kansas has a stronger correlation between ethnicity and poverty levels than does Texas, so it is not unexpected that the lower poverty levels translate to better educational outcomes in a head to head comparison.

Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity

White TX 12% KS 13%

Black TX 31% KS 35%

Hispanic TX 34% KS 40%

Other TX 18% KS 24%

Total TX 23% KS 17%

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Conveniently ignored: dip in state funding came from temporary shift of funding sources, not dip in actual spending. Therefore measurement is invalid, even if we would expect an immediate dip in test scores following a spending cut (We wouldn't. It would be delayed by a couple of years).

I'll take Dave's silence as confirmation.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

that's cute trying to take 'silence' as confirmation. Please explain your point by using the numbers you're referencing so we can all try to follow. And please also explain the academic or statistical rationale for your conclusion.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

It got your attention faster than changing my last name to Koch.

You claimed on your slide that there was a dip in "state" funding in 2010. That correlates to timing when many states used temporary ARRA funds to offset state expenditures. Also unclear is whether or not local spending was used to offset spending cuts. It is therefore unclear as to whether or not there was a drop in actual spending during that time. You make a pretty chart, but that is meaningless without context.

Next - it makes absolutely no sense that you'd see a drop in academic performance the very same year you drop funding levels. It's "cute" that you're being intentionally obtuse on that point, because I know you'd turn around and argue that charter schools need several years in order to see outcomes. (which will still be the same or lower than expected for SES, but we can argue that point again later)

The students still have their foundation of prior learning on which to build. Studies repeatedly show that one of the biggest bangs for the buck in terms of student outcomes is quality preschool. If you cut off preschool funding, it wouldn't impact fourth grade reading levels the next year. They've already been to preschool. It would impact fourth grade reading levels in five to six years. Likewise, an increase in services wouldn't be directly seen in test scores in the next year.

There are exceptions, of course. You could stop instructing students completely, and you'd see an immediate change. However, much of education funding is geared for the long game. Unlike a business that can directly measure widget sales for Q3, education calls for longitudinal studies. It's precisely why Brownback's kabuki theater is doomed to fail. Unfortunately for Kansas, it will be after Brownback is out of office that we'll really see the impact of his foolhardy ideology.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Now we get to the blame KPERS portion of the slide show. KPERS was already fixed, wasn't it? New employees entering the system get significantly reduced benefits and would cost the system less. It's a spending line item that will go down on its own, which you don't mention. So the only way to further reduce spending would be to find a way to fire experienced staff... and oh. I just gave away the game, didn't I?

He throws out some good suggestions on areas where we could get economics of scale and efficiencies and then peppers them with some somewhat iffy ideas (have fun with that reduced bus service, rural Kansas) and then hammers away at pay and how we should fire a bunch of people.

Privatize the lunch lady, because then she'll get paid less. She can eat cat food when she retires, since we're spending so much on her KPERS. Fire the school nurses. Fire the school social workers, nurses, and psychologists. Districts often have more than one, so they can just happen to visit the right school when someone is having a crisis or needs medical help, right?

Yeah, basically reads like it will be a bunch of outsiders who come in without real understanding and cut cut cut without any need to feel the consequences. There's a time and place where it's helpful to have an outside eye, but in my experience in the business world, this sort of consultants demanding mass firings thing tends not to work out so well.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 2 months ago

No, KPERS wasn't was given another little band-aid. KPERS just announced that their unfunded liability jumped to $9.2 billion with another $900 million in losses they haven't recognized...putting the unfunded liability at $10.1 billion. But even that is low because it is based on an absurd 8% return on assets. Pension experts are advising government plan trustees not to expect more than 4% for the next decade. FYI, KPERS earned less than 1% in 2011. The real unfunded liability is at least $15 billion...and that's based on an optimistic asset return of 6%.

Had you been at the Task Force meeting or done other research, you would know that a number of schools districts already privatize food service, bus service, building maintenance, etc. Most private vendors would have to hire employees to take on the increased work load, so it's common to make it a condition of getting the contract that private vendors give first preference to district employees.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

A 1% return? And it's that sort of awesome market economy that you want to pass on to teachers? Gosh, so sorry about the retirement you suddenly don't have. You know, bad economy. The state took really bad advice from some magical thinker from the business world to rely on stock investment income for any of it. It should have been funded from the start, but as the economy recovers, so will those investments. If they've got anybody in the governor's office that actually knows anything about business, anyway.

Those charges were already rung up on the credit card. You can't return the dress now. However, new entrants get a different system. Again. KPERS has three tiers now with the third being a much more modest and sustainable pension system. All tiers have changes including more payments from employees. The state should pay off that credit card bill and start funding the system, but even so, this is an expense that will go down over time. Yes, a long time, but it will go down.

Yes, I know many school districts already privatize aspects of their service, including cleaning, food service, and transportation. I have done my own research, because I don't have an underling handing me talking points. (ahem) I also know that the privatized workers earn less and have fewer benefits than district employees. That's the only way it would save money for the district or make profits for the contractors. "Here, you're given preferential treatment in getting this now crappier paying job doing the same thing."

tomatogrower 5 years, 2 months ago

KPERS is not underfunded. The state of Kansas is underfunded. They are the ones who were suppose to support this pension. In good times, they didn't support it, now the politicians are whining about it. If they had funded it during the boon years, there would be no problem.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago


But, I think they also assumed a rather overly optimistic rate of return on their investments, which should be safer ones.

And, some of the benefits may be too generous to be sustainable over time.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

They ended the worst of it, but mostly the problem is that they still need to backfill their unfunded obligations.

jafs 5 years, 2 months ago

Could be.

But, they're still projecting overly optimistic returns on investments, as far as I know.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

That's to skirt out of funding obligations. When they start peddling Dave's gloom and doom, it's to argue for "going bankrupt" or making radical new changes. I'm really not sure what was so awful about Tier 2, other than vesting in five years instead of ten, which was obviously a piece of candy they gave to the legislators.

melott 5 years, 2 months ago

The flat screens are in the lunch room at LHS.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Republicans don't know any financial experts. Republicans deal in wreckanomics not jobs and economic growth.

The repub party declared the day Obama was elected their primary function would be to make Obama a one term president. Consequently their millions of NO votes became the disastrous campaign against women,The USA and jobs for Americans.


Repubs fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all WOULD keep them out of control for decades….. we would hope.

Keep in mind a prospering america can overcome repub fear mongering... it must.

What is the repub party afraid? Why do they ALWAYS say no?

What do Repubs fear?

--- Fear a dramatically improved quality of life for all americans

--- Fear Jobs Jobs Jobs for americans

--- Fear New USA industry thus new wealth for america

--- Fear new cleaner energy sources because it would create so many new jobs and reduce rates across the board

--- Fear Medicare Single Payer Insurance for = huge tax dollar savings to government,public schools,small business and all of us in general. Single Payer Medicare is the answer. - -

--- Fear Clean Collar Industries which produce jobs that cannot be outsourced

--- Fear educated Americans because WE ask questions

--- Fear losing of tax incentives/tax breaks for the wealthy that actually create tax increases for entire spectrum of the middle class

Richard Heckler 5 years, 2 months ago

Sam Brownback gave AMC theatre $47 million tax $$$$$ who then sold out to China....

Financial experts..... where the hell are they?

Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses Thursday, April 26, 2012 | Posted by Jim Hightower

Where is the $47 million tax dollars that belong to Kansas taxpayers?

Last year, Kansas used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff! Among the 2,700 corporations cashing in on such absurd diversions of state taxes from public need to private greed are Goldman Sachs, GE, Motorola, and Procter & Gamble.

For more information – and for ways you can help stop this despicable giveaway – get the full report, entitled "Paying Taxes to the Boss." It's available at

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Good catch on the discussion bogarting.

And yes, last year's ALEC "scholarship" bill from last year was little more than coupons for rich kids. Likely unconstitutional in this state, too.

chootspa 5 years, 2 months ago

Ask your grandparents. I'm sure they enjoy being called freeloaders.

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