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Archive for Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brownback urges Kansans to report school inefficiencies

October 17, 2012

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— Gov. Sam Brownback's call for Kansans to tell officials where they see waste in the public schools, has drawn a sharp reaction from Democrats.

"We should celebrate our public schools and fully restore the funding cuts they've endured since the recession began," House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Thursday. "We should not be demonizing them and searching for excuses to cut their funding even more," Davis said.

Sherriene Jones-Sontag, a spokeswoman for Brownback, said the governor wasn't trying to demonize schools but wants the public to help identify ways schools can improve efficiency.

On Wednesday, Brownback announced the establishment of a website where people can anonymously report their experiences with inefficient spending in the educational system to the Governor's School Efficiency Task Force. The website is https://governor.ks/efficiency.

"Inefficient spending impacts Kansas taxpayers at every level, from the state general fund to local property taxes," Brownback said. "Moving forward, we owe it to Kansas taxpayers to ensure those resources are used as efficiently as possible," he said.

But Democrats said the move was another attack by Brownback on public schools.

Earlier, they had been critical of the 10-member School Efficiency Task Force appointed by Brownback because it was dominated by accountants, including Brownback's budget director Steve Anderson, and had no one who was an educator or worked in a school.

In the same news release announcing the website, Brownback also said he was adding an 11th member to the task force — Iola school superintendent Brian Pekarek. "Brian is well-known as a superintendent who is open to new ideas," Brownback said.

Democrats have alleged that the task force is going to be used to provide cover for Brownback to cut state funding to schools. But Brownback has said he will protect school funding.

Davis said, "Instead of hosting an online forum to complain about public schools, why not discuss all the innovative ways our teachers and administrators have done more with less since Gov. Brownback implemented the largest cut to education funding in Kansas history?" Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature cut schools by $232 per student in 2011, but then added $58 to base state aid per pupil this year.

In the news release, the governor's office repeated its claim that only 54 percent of total school funding goes into the classroom for instruction, but Democrats and educators have said the governor's office is not figuring the total correctly.

The task force's next meeting is Nov. 9. Chairman Ken Willard of Hutchinson urged Kansans to contact the website and share information about school inefficiencies. "While task force members are researching and analyzing where inefficiencies are occurring in our educational system, we also want to hear directly from Kansans who have their own ideas and suggestions on how to make our schools more efficient," Willard said.

By late Thursday morning, the website had received 75 suggestions, Jones-Sontag said. She said the suggestions eventually will be compiled for the task force. She said she assumed the compilation would be available to the media and public too.

Jones-Sontag said Brownback wants to increase student performance on state and national tests, and increase the number of high school graduates who are career or college ready. "The governor wants to make sure our spending reflects our education goals," she said. "We want to put resources into the classroom, where teachers teach and children learn."

Comments

Lane Signal 1 year, 11 months ago

I have one. The schools are encumbered by an idiot governor who is trying to take all their funding. The time and energy they have to spend in justifying their spending and bureaucracy being put in place to justify this theft of funds from our children are creating huge inefficiencies in our schools. Brownie's best bet to improve efficiency in schools is to give an impassioned speech about the importance of well funded public education then promptly resign.

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riverdrifter 1 year, 11 months ago

Now there you go. Beat me to it.

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Patricia Davis 1 year, 11 months ago

And vote Democrat for senate because the only way we can contain our Muscular Jesus governor is to keep him in gridlock for the next two years.

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cammieb 1 year, 11 months ago

I totally agree! Since Brownback has been in office, I have spent countless hours doing this exact thing: justifying the importance of our state funded education program that impacts close to 20,000 children in Kansas. It causes a great deal of stress for our staff and takes time away from providing direct service (classroom time). Now, didn't Brownback say he wants more time dedicated the classroom?

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Unfortunately, too many people don't see the time it takes from being productive to continually have to justify things to people who have absolutely no understanding of what you do. Yes, oversight is necessary, but spending weeks and months collecting detailed information every time you get a new administrator (which can be often) who hasn't ever bothered to show up in your office even when it is just a few steps away, is really counter productive.

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Tracy Rogers 1 year, 11 months ago

Or when you get lazy legislators or candidates who say "where is all the money going?" Go visit a school in your district once in a while and you'll see exactly where "all the money" is going.

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Richard Heckler 1 year, 11 months ago

Anybody that Brownback appoints must think like him. Brownback represents the demise of the republican party.

Meanwhile... as of 10/13/12

Vouchers were promoted in the 1990s as a way to help poor black children escape failing schools. But that rhetoric has disappeared in Milwaukee. Voucher supporters have expanded vouchers to middle-income families and have made clear they want to make vouchers available to all, including millionaires. Vouchers for poor children was just a first step.

For more than twenty years, I have listened to the voucher movement’s seductive rhetoric of “choice” and “parent power.” If I didn’t know better, I might proclaim, “Sign me up today!”

Milwaukee, however, has more than two decades of reality-based vouchers. The lesson from this heartland city?

Vouchers are a vehicle to funnel tax dollars into private schools. Using the false promise of “choice,” they are an unabashed abandonment of public education and of our hopes for a vibrant democracy.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/13-0

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Bob Forer 1 year, 11 months ago

Is this what one calls seeking evidence to blame the victim?

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question4u 1 year, 11 months ago

OK, Brownback is a great friend to education, but let's suppose a hypothetical situation in which there were a governor who was not a great friend to education. Let's imagine a governor who cared only about cutting taxes for himself and his wealthy friends. What would that hypothetical governor do?

Obviously, he wouldn't be able to come right out and call for cuts to education. He would need to find a way to cut funding while appearing to be helping the educational system. That might require some accounting tricks, so it might be a good strategy to get some accountants involved. He wouldn't want too many people who actually understand the system to have an idea of what's going on though, so he probably would try to keep those experts out of the process as long as possible – at least until his group of accountants could have some private meetings to agree on strategy.

Then, how would this hypothetical governor go about cutting funding while trying to look like the good guy. Claiming inefficiency in the system might be a good idea. Of course, there doesn't have to actually be any appreciable inefficiency, just the perception of it. If the questionable inefficiencies were suggested by the governor himself or by his appointed panel, there might be some objection. What better way to avoid that than to get members of the public, who know even less about how schools are run, to share their anecdotes? That way, when the cuts come it will be in the name of efficiency and at the demand of the public. The hypothetical hypocrite governor would be able to wash his hands of guilt.

It's great that we have a governor how wouldn't stop to that kind of hypocrisy and manipulation, and its great that when it comes to schools we can cut all that we want and watch student outcomes soar.

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

You do have a way of slicing right through the rhetoric. Nicely said.

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Melanie Birge 1 year, 11 months ago

Kansans to report examples of inefficiencies of Gov. Sam Brownback

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MJFarmermac 1 year, 11 months ago

...because one of our biggest problems is these high-roller fat cat teachers playing fast and loose with the truckloads of money that are dumped into their classrooms. I'll think about how to rein it in the next time I'm fast-forwarding a VHS tape for my students. I wonder how much this website cost? Can that be put down as an inefficiency?

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 11 months ago

What a great idea!! I can't think of any better way to improve the education system than to collect a bunch of unverifiable anonymous anecdotes.

And I can't wait till Brownback has killed teacher tenure, and this system of anonymous whining becomes a major part of the "teacher evaluation" process.

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jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

I don't like this method, of course.

But, there ought to be some way to make sure that education spending is efficient and effective, I would think.

And that would be a good thing, as it would with all government spending, right?

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chootspa 1 year, 11 months ago

Absolutely. And I think with a less antagonistic approach, everyone could go in with the idea of having a great educational system that spends tax dollars wisely. You could have a panel with educational experts, accountants, and even a few parents and really examine the evidence and thing of big ideas.

Instead, we've got a governor who wants to demonize schools and teachers and makes a website that assumes inefficiency and asks for complaints instead of ideas. It's so obvious that he's got an agenda and is just looking for a pile of anecdotes to justify his radical school privatization scheme.

That makes everyone defensive instead of open to change, and the whole thing is doomed for horrible crash and burn failure.

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Lane Signal 1 year, 11 months ago

But, I think the biggest problem with Brownie's approach (aside from it's cynical agenda to slash as much as possible from school budgets without regard for the damage it will do to kids) is that though there is waste, I think little of it has a simple solution. The most glaring example of waste at the Elementary level is all the time and energy preparing for and administering standardized tests. This must be done as part of a federal mandate. The schools are already squeezed enough, I think, that they have cut out almost all the inefficiencies associated with making too many copies or using the expensive staples rather than the cheap ones. They are already cutting corners on materials to the determent of children's learning.

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jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

I think Brownback's approach sucks, and has nothing to do with increasing efficiency, or improving the educational system in KS.

That doesn't mean that finding efficiencies is a bad thing, though.

Why did the school board spend about $2 million of a capital improvement bond on new athletic fields if buildings, classrooms, etc. needed work?

Also, I'm not entirely sure I agree that standardized tests are a waste of time - what would your suggestion be for ensuring that students across the nation receive a consistent education that meets certain standards?

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Lane Signal 1 year, 11 months ago

I did not mean to characterize standardized testing as completely worthless. We do need some measures of success in schools. My concern is more in the way it is implemented. Teachers spend weeks drilling students on a narrow range of topics. I don't blame the teachers, they have to produce results on these tests. I think we need more effort to design tests that reflect overall effectiveness and also the tests should be a small part of a larger look at a schools effectiveness. This is an example of a problem with efficiency that does not have a simple solution.

I do agree with your point about athletics. That may be an area where there is a pretty simple solution. Reallocation of funds for athletic facilities to academic infrastructure seems like a good idea. We do want facilities for children to exercise, but huge football stadia over up to date text books does not.

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jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe.

But, the idea of adequately fulfilling the mission is included in "efficiency" for me.

Either way, don't you agree that we should be able to make sure that all government spending is both efficient and effective, and that we should be doing that?

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jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Then why aren't students in KS performing at a higher level?

And, elections don't always result in qualified people - that should be obvious. People vote for candidates they like, who tell them what they want to hear.

I bet if I looked at a budget for about 5 minutes, I could identify a number of ways to save money without decreasing the quality of education.

Do you recall when the school bond was passed for "capital improvements", which I voted for? About $2 million of that was spent on new athletic fields, which isn't what I understood capital improvements to mean.

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dwendel 1 year, 11 months ago

KRichards - I disagree with your assertion that most parents don't care about their kids' educations. I actually believe that the vast majority of parents, even the poor ones who most of us have never met yet love to anonymously disparrage so much here, love their children dearly and want the best for them. I recall a study that showed that uneducated working poor people recognize that education is the best way to improve the chances of success for their children. Of course they have little experience, resources or community support to help achieve this. Many are working multiple low-wage jobs to keep food on the table and the rent paid, so I understand they don't have tons of time, energy or money to invest. Tell you what, if you provide some sources to back up your assertion, I'll dig around and try to find the evidence to support mine..

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

"even the poor ones who most of us have never met yet love to anonymously disparrage so much here"

Yes.

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jafs 1 year, 11 months ago

Are you really claiming there aren't any inefficiencies in educational spending?

I'll give you a couple of ways to save money without even looking up the budget.

Administration salaries. Heating and cooling costs.

Virtually all indoor spaces I experience are overcooled in summer and overheated in winter.

Also, the example of the school bond I mentioned is a good one - in my view, spending that money on improvements to HVAC systems, buildings, etc. would have been a better way to spend it than on athletic fields, even without the "bait and switch" aspect of the bond.

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JanM 1 year, 11 months ago

And what's next, putting frowning face stickers on those schools that don't meet with Brownies standards, or on the teachers who aren't faith based, conservative and Republican?? Of course, it would follow to do the same to parents and students that don't meet with his standards, also. Hmmm, he's starting to remind me of a guy named Adolph.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

On the national level, many say Obama inherited a mess and it will take time to fix it. In this case, Brownback inherited a mess and he's making it worse.

There's something in that for all sides. For those of you who hate Brownback and his policies, yes, he's making it worse. And for those of you who defend Brownback and his policies, yes, he did inherit a system that's been a mess for a long time.

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headdoctor 1 year, 11 months ago

The system may have been in a mess for a long time but much of that mess was created by the Kansas Legislature. It isn't a big secret that the Republicans goal is to destroy the public school system as we know it. Their concept of fixing the school system is to create a learning system for the elite and squash all others that don't fit their mold under their feet. Vouchers or privatizing our schools will not result in cheaper or more efficient schools. All they will accomplish is that we will be educating a smaller number of students.

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jhawkinsf 1 year, 11 months ago

I'd agree with you except for the fact that in states where Dems. dominate, the educational system is also broken. The common denominator seems to be something other than political party.

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headdoctor 1 year, 11 months ago

I could care less what the problems are in other states. I am concerned with Kansas. Of course there are other issues that effect education but many of those other issues could be cleared up if the Legislators really cared and weren't setting on their hands. They are capable of other things than just financing public schools.

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think_about_it 1 year, 11 months ago

So using Lawrence USD 497 as an example. Spending per pupil is almost $9300. Multiply that by almost 11,000 student and you come up with over $100 million spending every year.

$100 million and not one dime of it is wasted? It must be nice to live in your world.

No let's not look for waste in a huge government program, but rather let's just whine about how evil the Governor is.

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Tracy Rogers 1 year, 11 months ago

That's what local school boards are for. If things are being run efficiently, then it needs to be addressed in the next election. Get people on your local board that will make your local school run efficient.

How about a task force and hotline for reporting how Legislature and legislators are wasting money??

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jayhawklawrence 1 year, 11 months ago

When I first saw this it reminded me of stories I heard of children in Communist countries being taught to turn their parents into the "State".

At what point does government cross the line as they seek to divide our country along political lines?

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paulveer 1 year, 11 months ago

This is great. A website to go to and tell them what you think. Please join me there en masse. Let's make sure that website is not a total waste of state resources.

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Richard Payton 1 year, 11 months ago

Heard the kids are not getting enough to eat with the dietary guidelines in place.

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chootspa 1 year, 11 months ago

I heard the kids are throwing away a lot more food and then complaining that they're not getting enough to eat.

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StirrrThePot 1 year, 11 months ago

My kids want to take their lunches now because they don't like the food being served or, there isn't enough of it. They're active, well within their ideal body weight, and tear through fresh fruits and vegetables as though they were candy. I hate that we are cramming these extremes down their throats because other people can't keep their kids' diets in check.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 11 months ago

Here, here, me, me!!!!!! I have a school inefficiency to report!!!!!!

Here it is, now pay close attention!

Don't shade your gaze!!!!

The school inefficiency is>>>>>>>><< Govrener Brownback!!!!!!!

Who'd of thunk it??

Aw rats!! you all beat me to it!

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George_Braziller 1 year, 11 months ago

I wouldn't consider Brownback reasonable, a Republican, or an adult.

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cowboy 1 year, 11 months ago

If the roles were reversed and we had a Socialist Governor instead of a reasoned adult Republican

Good Lord...

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Anonymous? Have you looked at the website? You have to give them all your personal information. The site is truly creepy.

I've half a mind to report the inefficiencies of Brownback appointing out-of-state incompetents to state jobs and appointing---is it 22 people now that he's added one person who actually has something to do with education---to a committee to find inefficiencies. Talk about irony. All who have been on committees know that is gross inefficiency---like herding cats. The loudest, and usually stupidest, don't let anybody else talk and the ones who actually have something to say just finally give up and tune out. Of course, the outcome is no doubt preordained.

Does anybody know what we're paying these people?

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paulveer 1 year, 11 months ago

They don't make it obvious, but the personal info is optional. Go have a field day.

p.s. I did you a favor and went ahead and posted your middle paragraph there.

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paulveer 1 year, 11 months ago

There are so many good suggestion here today that I felt compelled to pass them along (via copy and paste) to that website. I want to make sure that the task force is provided with lots of valuable information.

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Budgets_Smudgets 1 year, 11 months ago

I guess he has received his "binders full of school administrators."

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EJ Mulligan 1 year, 11 months ago

This definitely sounds like smaller government. Report the government inefficiencies back to the government, so that the government can make them more efficient. Yep, smaller government.

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blindrabbit 1 year, 11 months ago

In repressive Brownbackistan this is a prelude to a smaller role of government in your lives. To follow:

Reporting any sexual deviations (from the Bible) about your neighbors, family and friends. Report any blasphemous beliefs in evolution not in line with the Creationist Dogma. Report any political leanings away from the right-wing takeover of the GOP. Report any agnostic, athestic, muslim or non-traditional Christian beliefs. Report any attempts to interfere with the GOP voter suppression efforts. Report any interference in Brownies attempt to turn Kansas away from its backwards drift. Support effort to make the Kansas motto "As bigoted as you think". And the beat goes on!!

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Since many teachers are already buying school room supplies with their own money, it is coming directly out of their pockets, so I doubt there is a whole lot of waste on that level. I've heard of some teachers buying clothes for students. Can't be much more dedicated to keeping students in school than that. Of course, Brownback et al would probably take that to mean the teachers are being paid too much.

While the tenure rules may keep some incompetent teachers in place, I have a feeling taking away any protections is going to result in people either leaving or not going into the profession or going to other states. Being continually afraid of losing your job, even if you are doing it well, does not make for a good atmosphere. Sort of stifles creativity.

I think I'll suggest changing the laws about recalling state officials so they can be fired as easily as they want to make it to fire teachers. Also, let's cut salaries for the governor and other statewide elected officials.

Any bets on how long this website will stay up? I've a feeling they've opened a hornet's nest.

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Tracy Rogers 1 year, 11 months ago

And with the new lunch policy, I can guarantee you that many many grade school teachers are buying snacks out or their own pockets to give the kids during the day.

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Anybody else having trouble getting on the website?

Server not found.

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cowboy 1 year, 11 months ago

They took that site down ! How Funny

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Damn, I was so looking forward to a good rant.

Glad paulveer was able to get some things posted .

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chootspa 1 year, 11 months ago

They changed the URL. Because their webmaster is as competent as their ideas.

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

I got on at this address and tried to post. Got this message

"A problem has occurred in the web site."

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situveux1 1 year, 11 months ago

"Don't look at that man behind the curtain" ... said the KNEA

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verity 1 year, 11 months ago

Cover for what they've already decided to do?

Encouraging snitching so we get used to the sort of environment that incurs?

Making people feel like they actually have some input? (Feel being the operative word here.)

A threefer at the very least..

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