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Archive for Monday, October 8, 2012

Statehouse Live: Governor’s task force on school efficiency starts work; chair promises to keep politics out

October 8, 2012

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Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer speaks Monday to members of the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency during a lunch break. Colyer said getting more dollars into classroom instruction was an important issue.

Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer speaks Monday to members of the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency during a lunch break. Colyer said getting more dollars into classroom instruction was an important issue.

Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert testifies on Monday to the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency, which is charged with making recommendations to increase funds directly related to classroom instruction and reduce administrative expenses.

Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert testifies on Monday to the Governor's Task Force on School Efficiency, which is charged with making recommendations to increase funds directly related to classroom instruction and reduce administrative expenses.

— 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."

Comments

riverdrifter 2 years, 2 months ago

'KPI describes itself as "an independent think-tank that advocates for free market solutions and the protection of personal freedom for all Kansans." ' They left out the part about vouchers and intelligent design. KPI is a wingnut Teabagger group that is 100% about their form of politics and social engineering.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't know about Intelligent Design, but they're definitely for vouchers covering private, for-profits, and parochial schools. This year the sugar coating will come in the form of special education vouchers. That's all sorts of special without the education.

It forces parents to sign away IDEA rights to take the voucher, and then it takes away the economy of scale for those dollars. School districts can hire specialists and buy specialized equipment, because those things get used by more than one child. A private school with only one location? Maybe not so much. But don't worry, they're not obligated to abide by the IEP. You signed away those IDEA rights, remember?

And then the kids in the rural areas will be pressured into signing up for crappy online schools. Another dirty little secret about IDEA is that it isn't fully funded at the federal level, which means the states are always trying to find ways to cheat in funding at the local level.

We could be talking about true efficiency. About having those specialists teleconference to remote locations to work with kids and train teachers and pooling together specialized equipment resources, but no, we'll just talk about shoving them off to be some other school's problem.

TNPlates 2 years, 2 months ago

I'll believe they leave politics out when I see the final report. The fact that they have KPI kicking the task force off with a 2.5 hour presentation tells me we define the "distraction" of politics differently.

ElGonzo 2 years, 2 months ago

Keeping politics out = excluding moderates, liberals, democrats and any one who knows anything about effective education.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

How much you want to bet they also screen "Won't Back Down" at their meeting. Because that's also not political.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

Ooh, good thing they gave the Koch-funded think tank and member of ALEC the most speaking time to kick off the meeting. That will totally keep politics out of it.

Betty Bartholomew 2 years, 2 months ago

"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, for one and a half hours, and then Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis for one and a half hours."

That sounds like the most boring day ever.

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 2 months ago

You obviously haven't heard Dale Dennis speak. That man has more knowledge of Kansas' educational system then any person alive. And he presents it in a way that anyone can understand it.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

So why wasn't he given two and a half hours?

question4u 2 years, 2 months ago

TOPEKA––A task force appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback to make recommendations on state highways met today. The task force has been criticized because it does not include any members who have worked for the Kansas Department of Transportation, have any experience with highway planning or construction, or even possess a driver's license. "We don't have credentials or experience," the task-force chairman said, "but there's nothing political going on here."

The panel began its work today by hearing from grocery clerk Tom Smith, who argued that spending on state highways matters but that spending less won't have any effect on the quality of Kansas highways. "I've looked at highways a lot," Smith said.

Welcome to Kansas, where you can have your cake and eat it too. All you have to do is close your eyes and believe.

Glenn Reed 2 years, 2 months ago

This is all theater... The decisions have already been made to cut education funding, they just need a narrative about trying to do things right.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

Yea, with Dave Trabert still on his "money doesn't matter in education" kick, they'll probably vote to go back to one-room schools with dirt floors, no heat or electricity, no breakfast or lunch, no buses, and students will have to bring 50 cents a day to pay the teacher who will only be required to have completed the grade they teach the previous year.

StirrrThePot 2 years, 2 months ago

And let's not forget what happens when you put bean counters with no first-hand experience or knowledge in whatever it is they are in charge of budgeting. Having seen what happens many times when this is the case, I can tell you it is a first rate disaster later on. This will cost us dearly down the road.

Kansas = on the way to beating out Mississippi as the worst state in the union

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 2 months ago

Funny how money only matters when it's the Koch Bros. demanding big tax cuts for themselves.

chootspa 2 years, 2 months ago

Or when they want to hand it to private schools.

FlintHawk 2 years, 2 months ago

I was born in Kansas. I grew up in Kansas. I live in Kansas. Kansas has been a moderately conservative state as long as I can remember — which is a long time. However, we've moved so far right with Brownback's policies, it's terrifying.

I have come to believe the truth of the statement that Mssrs. Brownback, Koch et al really are working to make our state a "laboratory" of scary right-wing political ideas. It will take us many, many years to recover from this negligent and irresponsible experimentation.

Grump 2 years, 2 months ago

I'll bet that one of the recommendations is that money is being wasted teaching evolution.

grammaddy 2 years, 2 months ago

10 member commission-I wonder how much that is going to cost us.

booyalab 2 years, 2 months ago

Hey guys, in other states even progressives realize that public education desperately needs improvement. It's ok, you don't have to believe union propaganda anymore. You won't be uncool if you think that public education is wasteful and that choice is ok outside of killing fetuses.

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