Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In efficiency fight, school officials counter that cuts have already left deep wounds

October 24, 2012


After taking criticism for the last two years over cuts that have been enacted for Kansas schools, Gov. Sam Brownback is now shifting the focus in the debate over education by calling on schools to be more efficient with the money they get.

But local school officials in Lawrence and Eudora say the cuts enacted since 2008 when the recession began have already forced them to lay off teachers, increase class sizes and cut or eliminate services for students and their families. They warn that any additional cuts will result in lower quality education and, ultimately, less efficiency.

“We feel like there are consequences for the cuts we’ve sustained, and certainly there will be consequences for further cuts,” said Kristin Magette, communications director for the Eudora school district.

Last month, Brownback formed a new School Efficiency Task Force to, “examine education spending and to develop guidelines on how to get more funding into classrooms where teachers teach and students learn.”

Then last week, he went further by openly soliciting anonymous reports through a new web portal about wasteful spending in public schools.

“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,” Brownback stated in a news release. “We hope to hear from a lot of Kansans who take a few minutes to go online and share their thoughts with us.”

To some, that statement revealed an underlying assumption on the governor’s part that schools are indeed wasting money and that the only thing needed is to ferret out the waste in order to make schools more efficient.

In response, Democrats in the Legislature have launched their own website seeking examples of how cuts to education in recent years have affected schools and families.

Ken Willard, chairman of the governor’s task force and a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, said the task force’s website wasn’t meant to be negative.

“If it sounded accusatory, that’s unfortunate because that certainly is not my position,” said Willard, a Hutchinson Republican. “But I think there probably are some things that could be done more efficiently, and if that’s the case we want to identify them in as positive a manner as possible to make recommendations.”

Lawrence superintendent Rick Doll said the cuts enacted in the last three years that resulted in eliminating teaching and administrative positions and closing some facilities have, in some ways, already made the district less efficient.

“Because we know that class size impacts student achievement,” Doll said. “We know that strong instructional leadership from an administrator impacts student achievement, so it’s incredibly hard.”

Between fiscal year 2008, the last full year before the recession, and 2012, per-pupil funding in Lawrence for general operating expenses was cut 11.6 percent, from $5,783 to $5,113.

Those figures represent the total of the district’s general fund budget, which is set by the state through a per-pupil formula, and its supplemental, or “local option,” budget.

In Eudora, the cuts were less severe, in part because Eudora opened a new building during that period and qualified for additional state aid called “new facilities weighting.”

But even with that, state records show, Eudora took a 3 percent cut during that time, from $5,941 per-pupil to $5,761.

Those cuts occurred across two administrations. In 2009, as the recession hit and revenues flowing to the state began to plummet, then-Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat, ordered across-the-board cuts in state spending. Some of that was replaced, however, with federal money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus act.

The biggest cut, however, came in 2011 as the federal stimulus program was being phased out. That year, the Kansas Legislature and newly elected Gov. Brownback, a Republican, opted not to replace the federal money with state funds, resulting in a $232 per-pupil cut in the base funding formula. That caused a ripple effect in every district’s local option budget, which is based on a percentage of the state-controlled base budget.

This year, Brownback and the Legislature restored some of that cut, raising base state aid by about $58 per-pupil.

To absorb those cuts, the Lawrence district eliminated many positions for administrators, teachers, counselors and support staff. It also closed Wakarusa Valley School and the East Heights Early Childhood Family Center, merging that center into New York and Kennedy Schools.

“Those were incredibly difficult in the community,” Superintendent Doll said.

In Eudora, the cuts resulted in increased fees for all students, the elimination of 10 teaching positions and nine nonteaching positions, as well as deep cutbacks in professional development for district staff.

Education advocates say districts throughout the state have made similar cuts, to one degree or another, and some have argued that those cuts are now showing up in the form of lower test scores.

That was one of the arguments made by plaintiffs in the school finance lawsuit, Gannon vs. Kansas, which is still pending in Shawnee County District Court.

In Lawrence, for example, the official district report card shows that in 2012, fewer middle and high school students meeting or exceeding the state standards in reading and math than in 2011. There were also sharp increases in the number of economically disadvantaged students who scored at the “academic warning” level in math, the lowest performance category on the assessments.

Similar trends were evident in the Eudora district report card where there were overall declines in reading and math proficiency across several grades, although eighth- and 11th-grade math scores did improve.

Spokeswoman Kristin Magette cautioned against reading too much into those trends in Eudora, a relatively small district where the performance of one or two students can cause a shift of more than a percentage point in some grades.

Still, Magette said, there is a strong belief that recent budget cuts have had an impact on student learning.

“I don’t think anybody who deals with the operations in our district, or certainly the classroom teachers, would argue that the cuts we have undergone have not had an effect on teaching and learning in our district,” she said.

Task force chairman Willard said he has not yet seen any comments that have come in through the web portal. He said the task force will meet again in November and December. He said he expects the group to approve a set of recommendations for the Legislature to consider when it convenes in January.


volunteer 5 years, 7 months ago

Dr. Colyer's nephew sat beside me for three evenings at the Capitol Plaza Hotel "Falling Water Grill" and recounted some of the "transition team's" discussions earlier in the day. He was a former Wall Streeter accustomed to analyzing budgets in the millions and billions. He told me that public schoolteachers would not like the new Administration. It may have been an understatement...

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

The understatement of the year. It will get ugly real soon.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Here are a few pertinent facts that are conveniently missing from the story.

According to Lawrence's own financial statements, total taxpayer support in 2012 set a new record at $126.5 million; that is $11,440 per pupil. Instruction spending per-pupil actually increased 5.1% by their accounting and other current spending increased 7.6%. See for details. FTE enrollment was 11,060 if you want to check the math.

Lawrence also set a new record for the amount of cash reserves in their operating funds at $36.4 million, which reflects a $3.1 million increase. Since 2005, Lawrence built their cash reserves from $5.3 million to $36.4 million, none of which is included in their spending. Total spending went from $98.4 million in 2005 to $126.5 million last year. Their spending increase would have been much higher is they had spent the $31.5 million that was put into cash reserves over that period.

The Lawrence 2012 checkbook is now online at and the payroll list is at

Taxpayers have a right to know all of the facts...not just those that districts or media would like them to have.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"Taxpayers have a right to know all of the facts...not just those that districts or media would like them to have."

Yet we're supposed to believe that an organization whose primary purpose is to destroy public education is the source for "all of the facts," unbiased, uncolored, and unfiltered?

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Bogus straw man claims aside, KPI is not the source of the facts...the source is USD 497 and KSDE. KPI is pointing taxpayers to official government facts.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

How do you filter which of those facts that you choose to display, Dave? Why is there a cash reserve? Why do school districts have them? Should they do away with them entirely? If not, what's the proper amount, given the fact that the massive tax reductions that Brownback, et al, just gave to your bosses will mean that school funding will have to be gutted within the next couple of years?

And how much of the local spending is for school buildings and such, drawn from bond issues that can't be used for much of the operational expenses of the schools?

kuguardgrl13 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm going to assume that the numbers you reference come from a combination of state and local money. Schools aren't exclusively funded by the state. Property taxes have gone up to cover what the state has cut. If taxpayers don't like it, blame state cuts.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, schools aren't funded by government...they are funded 100% by taxpayers. Government merely redistributes what it collects from taxpayers.

Districts may prefer to have more money be funneled through state government because there is more accountability on local property taxes, but the money all comes from local taxpayers. They write the first check.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"Actually, schools aren't funded by government...they are funded 100% by taxpayers."

Oh, isn't that precious.

KSManimal 5 years, 7 months ago

Typical use of the exception, rather than the rule, to create big misconceptions overall. Lawrence hoards money by seriously under-compensating their teachers relative to other districts. Let's see you put similar data for every district on here, Dave. Bet you won't - because it wouldn't create the image of cash hoarding you're looking to present.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Here's a fact conveniently missing from this post. Dave Trabert is the hired spokesperson for the Kansas Policy Institute, a Koch-funded think tank that advocates for turning the public school system into a system of charter schools. He also serves on ALEC, which allows corporations and other lobbyists to write "model legislation" -- often introduced by legislators without any significant modifications.

Trabert represents the interests of entities that potentially stand to directly financially gain from the transformation of public schools into privately-run taxpayer-funded coupon systems. The average citizen of Kansas will not.

Thus far, he's had a two pronged approach: Argue that public schools are awful. Argue that public schools are expensive due to their lack of free market magic.

Conveniently forgotten is that for-profit higher education institutions are far more expensive and less effective than their public counterparts. There's no reason to assume k-12 has something higher ed doesn't. Charter schools are no more effective than public schools (and quite often worse) unless you cherry pick your statistics and argue that some charters are more special than others. Not more special than the best public schools, but ignore that man behind the curtain. Private schools do no better than public schools when corrected for SES, and parents do not choose schools based on academic reasons.

So, anytime you have something to say about the schools, Those scores are much lower than you think they are. The funding is much higher than you think it is.

Gotta keep up the two pronged approach. If citizens think public education is worth funding and better than the alternative, the Kochs aren't likely to give ol' Dave as much money to post on newspaper discussion forums. Market sure is motivating for some things, anyway.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

For all the bluster about making schools more businesslike and efficient, the first thing that anyone who's ever been involved in business can tell you is that a cash and resource-starved business is generally less efficient and effective than a business that has sufficient cash and resources. It's no different for schools.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Perhaps you missed the fact that Lawrence has increased cash reserves nearly seven-fold since 2005...and the fact that Lawrence spent more money in 2012 than any other year. That is not what 'anyone who's ever been involved in business' would label cash-starved or resource-starved.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Why do those cash reserves exist? And given that your sole intent with regards to schools is to gut their funding, isn't it wise to use those reserves to tide the schools over until people wise up to your and the Koch Bros' and Brownback's intent to destroy public education?

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

In the last crisis, districts with reserves met payroll. Come spring, they will likely need them again. The state has also laundered pension and special education funds through district budgets. This makes them appear larger than they are in terms of per pupil expenses.

cowboy 5 years, 7 months ago

And what business expertise does paid troll Dave Trabert bring to the discussion. NONE , NADA , zilch

A paid troll by the Koch brothers injecting himself into local school issues with a false entre as director of blah blah American Educational Prosperity ALEC institute of crapola .

You suck , your mentors and financiers suck , crawl back in your hole

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Before joining Kansas Policy Institute, I spent 12 years as the business manager for a private sector company. I also was general manager of four private sector companies over 19 years, where I oversaw multiple exercises of the nature being explored in school districts. In each case, the employees honestly believed they are as efficient as they could be after having expenses reduced pretty significantly...but we still found ways to improve efficiency and increase productivity by re-thinking the culture.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Please elaborate on "re-thinking the culture" - it sounds like "do more with less".

B0B 5 years, 7 months ago

All of that would come in real handy if our schools were producing widgets.

I'll save you a lot of trouble Dave. If you want to increase efficiency in your final product (high school graduates? are you going to at least pretend thats your goal?), just eliminate the faulty raw materials you've been starting out with. Problem solved. No good business would just take any kid off the street and expect to be efficient.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually you were just the general manager of WYTV Youngstown and KAKE-TV Wichita per your public resume. Running a TV station and running a statewide school education system are not the same thing.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Dave Trabert is President of the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy. Trabert developed his interest in the public policy arena during his 18-year career managing television stations. <----- yeah, that's some serious education policy credentials right there, yo.

During his last two gigs, his stations got bought out, lost ratings, and laid off people. 22 in Ohio. That's some "efficiency" and "changed culture," alright.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

He brings the expertise of failing at his job and laying off people. I was wrong. He laid off 40 people at his last job before resigning to go run KPI for the Kochs.

Phillbert 5 years, 7 months ago

Kansas has ~300 school districts for 105 counties. But Brownback took consolidation off the table when he announced his "task force" so that avenue for savings was closed from the get-go.

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Not really. The real savings in consolidations comes from eliminating unnecessary overhead. Whether one district or 300, the same number of students still need to be educated, but there are significant savings opportunities in combining non-instruction administrative functions across districts.

77 of the 105 counties have fewer than 1,000 students per district. That's a lot of money being spent on duplicated overhead that could be going into the classroom.

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

How much money will be spent by rural districts busing children for an hour or two one way every day to these consolidated school districts?

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Again, no one is talking about consolidating districts or moving schools. Transportation is a matter of logistics...instead of having partially-full buses stop at arbitrary borders, districts can get more money in the classroom by altering bus routes and eliminating overhead.

FYI, Kansas already has over twenty counties where there is just one district assigned to the county. Wichita found that changing the start times for about six schools allowed them to save $2 million last year because they made better use of their buses.

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

". The real savings in consolidations comes from eliminating unnecessary overhead...That's a lot of money being spent on duplicated overhead that could be going into the classroom."

But ", no one is talking about consolidating districts or moving schools."

Altering bus routes in ONE city is a whole lot different than altering routes when the local school is several dozen miles away. How many hours a day do you, Dave, believe it is acceptable for children to ride a bus to school one way?

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

I guess Dave doesn't have an opinion about how long is too long for kids to ride on buses every day. It's a simple question. I wonder why he won't deign to answer it?

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, he can tell you how to limp along with one less photographer than the station really needs, but actual bus logistics is just not in his wheelhouse.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

I'd be curious, deec, if you would answer your own question.

My first thought was that if your answer is say, 45 minutes, and you have a student who lives 46 minutes away from his school. In that scenario, every proposed solution fails. I'm not a big fan of putting people in no win situations and then criticizing them when they fail.

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

That's easy. It's any longer than they already have to ride. If rural districts are consolidated, it seems likely that they will have to travel farther to reach their school. If buildings aren't closed, it seems to me there won't be much savings in consolidating.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

Too rigid for me. If you can increase that 45 minute ride to 55 minutes, but save yourself the purchase price of a new bus as well as all the costs associated with training and hiring a driver, and then use that money to hire a teacher, or upgrade their computers, that's an option that at least should be considered.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

When you get your wish and close all schools west of Salina, who's going to feed you and your Koch buddies??

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

Dang those folks who feed us. They should all move to town.

Getaroom 5 years, 7 months ago

A March 1, 2011, Tea Party meeting sponsored by the Patriot Freedom Alliance in Hutchinson drew more than 130 people who heard presentations on Kansas government fiscal policy and the Fair Tax plan.

Tea Party supporters first heard from Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, who explained some basics of tax policy and how policy used .....

Trabert also explained how to access data on, a site created and managed by KPI.

Earl Long, president of FairTaxKC, explained how a change from income and other taxes to the Fair Tax, a consumption tax, would work.

I am so glad you mentioned the Straw Man what a nice introduction Dave.

So Dave offers us a glimpse of what is yet to come by "educating" us so efficiently on the issue of school finances. This is just one of many examples of Brownback's version of Heaven on Earth by way of the Christian Mafia ("The Family") and the sort of things he prays about while he eats the "body of Christ" wafer at lunch and listens for his personal message from Christ. Oh, and what does this have to do with education you ask? Not a thing, unless you have an agenda up your shirt sleeves.

So what do you say Dave, you, The Tea Party, and Sam take religion out of government and out of the school finances and start caring about people. People are people too, just in case you haven't noticed while assisting Sam in his mission to serve The Koch Brothers.
By the way Dave, do you assist with Voter Suppression as well?

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

From what baseline do we start? We can use the pre-Obama and pre-stimulus baseline or we can use the post recession post Obama reductions baseline. Or we can use something else. Using cuts from an artificially inflated baseline seems poor public policy. Can we even agree on a baseline??

question4u 5 years, 7 months ago

Brownback has stated that his intention is not to reduce funding for public education. Shouldn't that make secret facts, conspiracy theories, and comments from anonymous informants irrelevant? Unless you believe that Brownback is a blatant liar there is no reason to be pushing nonsense about cuts to education having no negative effect. According to Brownback, cuts will not be made.

Brownback claims that he is looking for inefficiency in "overhead" that could pay the salaries of the 3,000 new teachers that he said could be hired.

If that is true, then the state's contribution to public education will remain the same, and Brownback's claims about not intending to cut education funding can be trusted.

Brownback supporters only add to anxieties about cuts when they claim that cuts won't have a negative effect. Why is there any need to talk about cuts at all if Brownback is an honest man? Do Brownback supporters believe that he is honest but incompetent? Do they believe that the massive tax cuts for the wealthy will, after all, have to be paid for at the expense of public education whether Brownback likes it or not?

Either Brownback can be taken at his word or he cannot. Whether or not funding to public education is cut under his administration will resolve the issue.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

There is no way that funding to schools will be left the same. With the tax cuts he's already put in place, there is not going to be as much money coming in to the State to dish out. Education is over 50% of the State budget, how in the world can it not be cut?

Dave Trabert 5 years, 7 months ago

Very good question.

Cutting services and providing them at a lower cost are two entirely different subjects. Government typically cuts services but that is simply one (bad) choice. The other is for government to thoroughly review all programs for effectiveness and only eliminate those deemed no longer to necessary or effective...then find ways to reduce the cost of everything else.

Spending can be reduced without eliminating necessary everyone benefits.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

If government would quit adding unfunded mandates on schools and let them just teach kids, things would be fine. Why do you think there's so much administration in schools today versus 20 or 30 years ago? It's to comply with state and federal government requirements filling out reports and red tape bs, and not be in the rooms evaluating teachers and helping them get better. When is the last time you or your Koch buddies have actually been in a school building?

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Public education in KS should be funded at the level the Kansas SC ruled should be the case, based on the legislature's own studies on the matter.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Why is the state legislature study number better than any other?? The legislature commissioned the study. They did not endorse the results. They chose not to get into a fight with the courts because in some people's preceptions of the roles of the branches of government the courts do not set the tax levels - that is a political decision b y those accountable to the electorate.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

Courts weren't setting the tax levels, they were just telling the legislators what it costs based on the evidence that was presented to them. It's the legislators job to figure out how to pay it.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

I think the situation was a bit more complex than you acknowledge. The courts were finding the state as failing to meet its constitutional mandate for education (as they determined it) and cited the study as the remedial level necessary.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

The legislature did the studies, and the conclusion set a certain level of "adequate spending" on education.

The court simply ruled that the state had to meet their constitutional requirements, based on their own studies.

Tracy Rogers 5 years, 7 months ago

Funny isn't it how the legislators cite legislative studies to back their decisions when it fits their agenda....but when it doesn't, then the information or data is flawed, or doesn't apply.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

It does not become their study unitl they vote it so.

And as usual I totally diesgree with you.

The courts do not have the authority to set a fiscal level. That is the preserve of the legislature.

There is no specified level in the constitution

deec 5 years, 7 months ago

As I recall, the legislature's own research dept. found x dollars equaled an adequate education. The legislature declined to fund to the level their own research said was necessary. The schools sued, and won, forcing the legislature to fund at the level their own research dept. said was necessary to meet the constitution's definition.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

we agree. The question is how the courts can make the legislature fund to any level when in our system the legislature has the role of taxing. Unelected jurists setting taxes as opposed to elected representatives. The other point is that the study did not belong to the legislature - one of many inputs the legislature receives on various topics. The study was not linked to the constitution by the legislature. The court found that link.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Actually, I believe it was the studies they commissioned.

The topic is complex, and a little tricky. Given that the state has a constitutional mandate to provide funding for education (I think I was mistaken and that the term is "suitable"), how should we determine whether or not they're doing that?

If they commission a study, which finds that a certain level of funding is "suitable" funding, and then fail to abide by it, that seems like a pretty good way to me.

It's not, of course, the only way.

The reason that the SC in KS can hold them to that level is because of the constitutional mandate, and those studies.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Well not really.

There are other studies with different results. While I respect the work of our legislative reference service the results depend on the charter they were given. The stated purpose was to wrap some effort at unbiased thought around the funding issue. Nothing in the process removed the legislature’s responsibility to set the tax rate. I remind you that the term suitable is subjective. Do we want six unelected people or the elected legislature to determine a suitable budget and tax rate for Kansas??

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

So, they got unbiased results, and then ignored them?

Which is better, biased or unbiased data?

That's exactly the problem, that it's subjective, and why there were studies on the subject. If we leave it strictly to subjective judgement, then it loses meaning and purpose.

The court simply ruled the legislature had to abide by their own studies - they didn't "determine" them. It's the role of the courts, especially supreme courts, to ensure that states are fulfilling their constitutional obligations. Are you suggesting that they shouldn't do that, and everything should be left to legislatures?

If so, then you are collapsing our 3 branch system into a 2 branch one, and removing checks and balances that were intended.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

What on earth does that mean?

If they commission a study, then it's "their" study, regardless of whether or not they like the results.

There is no specific level of funding, but there is a mandate to provide "suitable" (I think I was wrong about "adequate") funding for education.

A study commissioned by the legislature arrived at a figure for "suitable" funding, and then they just ignored it (almost certainly because the figure was higher than they wanted).

I'm curious - if you don't like this method, how would you determine a "suitable" level of funding for education, and whether or not the state is meeting their constitutional responsibility?

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Glad you think so. However, legislatures commission studies all the time. The product is delivered. Until the legislature votes and says it agrees it is just one more input with no more (well maybe a little) validity than your personal testimony.

Suitable is determined as it has been since the sate joined the union - through the political process.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

If they commission it, it's their study.

That's what the word means - they commissioned it, chose the firm and perhaps methodology, and told them what they wanted them to study.

Whether or not they agree with the results is a separate question.

So, you leave everything to the legislature then, depending on nothing objective at all?

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

We do not agree. All elected bodies have the prerogative to just ignore anything they choose - including things they bought. It is not theirs until they vote and say so.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

Funny semantic games.

If they bought it, it's theirs. Just as if I buy a home inspection, it's mine.

And, of course, if there's any bias in things that one buys like that, it's likely to be bias in favor of the buyer's desires, which makes their study even more plausibly unbiased.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Legislatures are not homeowners and you --- well I will stop there. They are a collective and they do not own anything until they agree as a collective.

The issue is not the study. The issue is the legislature's right to do its job.

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

The issue is whether or not the legislature is doing its job.

And, when they commission studies which set funding at a certain level to be "suitable", and then ignore those studies, the conclusion of the KS SC is that they're not.

By the way, I did a quick search and it wasn't just one study - they also did a Legislative Post Audit thing, and that confirmed the results of the first study. Also, I seem to recall somebody posting there were actually 3 studies, all of which agreed with one another.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Of course not. I do leave to the legislature that which is its prerogative. Budgets and taxes are its prerogative.

It would be really nice if there was some master group who were infallible to whom we could turn for the right answer. There is not! We, therefore, invented politics. When we can not work it out we call it war.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

So, what's your suggestion for determining "suitable" funding for education?

Since there's a constitutional requirement to provide that, and the judicial branch is tasked with ensuring that the legislature fulfills those responsibilities, how would you determine that?

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago


jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

Of course it is.

When there are constitutional obligations, the judiciary is exactly the place that's supposed to make sure that entities aren't violating those, at both the state and federal level.

Your idea gives the legislature too much authority, and removes checks and balances that were intended when we were founded as a 3 branch system.

So, you think that the "voters" get to decide what's suitable, and the KS SC has no role to play?

George Lippencott 5 years, 6 months ago

Yep!! The founders made all this hard to avoid a dictatorship. Your are very happy with the courts decision because you agree with it. What if it proclaimed too little for the common defense and directed we follow one of the endless studies done to try to define the "right" level of defense spending ,- one that said we need a lot more.

It is not the study it is the court mandating an outcome that sets budgets - not its purview.! I am done with this thread. As usual we disagree and we are both just repeating so I am moving on.

jafs 5 years, 6 months ago

Actually, if you look it up, you'll find that the SC is responsible for interpreting the constitution.

That means that they're exactly the right folks to interpret the meaning of "suitable funding" for education. And, if they find that the legislature isn't providing that, it's their job to correct the situation.

I also notice that you completely failed to answer the question.


oldbaldguy 5 years, 7 months ago

I did not know the Lawrence school district is failing? When did that happen? Where do you go with vouchers?

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

I wrote a post about baselines and was roundly ignored. Of course that is how we get to having record revenue and cutting things (not Mr. Ks duplicity). If we use a planning baseline from the district we will almost always have cuts as the district will seek every increasing resources. This is not wrong in that there will always be things we would like to do that are not funded.

What the legislature has to do is consider how much to tax to raise revenue for the schools. Too much and they will not be in office. Too little and they will not be in office. So they cut the districts desired budget a bit but in the end slowly increase resources to schools. Of course to the district that is a cut even though they will have more resources than before. Games people play!!

Why don’t we use the previous year actual state funding as the baseline for the next year state funding with discussions about fact of life changes? That would be apples to apples

concerned_citizen 5 years, 7 months ago

Cut the salaries of the top 2002 personnel on that roster in half, hire 2x as many teachers...staffing shortage solved, budget not affected. Teachers are supposed to do it because they care so much anyway, right?

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

--- Number one this is a concept introduced by Grover Norquist yet it is what seems to be going on. Although it is a title that is misleading in very big way.

This concept was also voted out a few years ago. However it is in line with Brownback thinking. And would be supported by Anthony Brown and Ronald Ellis.

--- This concept is also in line with Brownback thinking. It is also the direction this Brownback admin is heading with our public schools.

And will be backed by candidates Anthony Brown and Ronald Ellis.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The money is there. It is that Brownback does not want to spend the money on public schools pure and simple. Obviously Kansas is not broke because Brownback gave $47 million tax dollars to AMC Theatre in this past budget session.

Brownback gave Marrs Candy $9 million tax dollars. Brownback is a reckless big spending conservative as he was in Washington D.C. Republican fiscal conservatives were replaced with reckless big spending conservatives.

--- Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses

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

My congratulations to workers in 16 states – from Maine to Georgia, New Jersey to Colorado! Many of you will be thrilled to know that the income taxes deducted from your paychecks each month are going to a very worthy cause: your corporate boss.

Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center, has analyzed state programs meant to create jobs, but instead have created some $700 million a year in corporate welfare. This scam starts with the normal practice of corporations withholding from each employee's monthly check the state income taxes their workers owe.

But rather than remitting this money to pay for state services, these 16 states simply allow the corporations to keep the tax payments for themselves! Adding to the funkiness of taxation-by-corporation, the bosses don't even have to tell workers that the company is siphoning off their state taxes for its own fun and profit.

These heists are rationalized in the name of "job creation," but that's a hoax, too. They're really just bribes the states pay to get corporations to move existing jobs from one state to another, or they're hostage payments to corporations that demand the public's money – or else they'll move their jobs out of state.

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!

AMC Entertainment has since either been sold to or merged with Dalian Wanda Group of China according to the Kansas City Star. Where is our 47 million tax $$$$$?

--- by Jim Hightower ( More information on this tax scheme can be found at Good Jobs First .org)

Armored_One 5 years, 7 months ago

To an extent, I can understand the desire and vague intelligence behind consolidating the exceptionally remove cities into some form of a conglomeration of communities to produce a moderately sized school district. Cities like Ransom, Kansas, which is small enough that from city line to city line you might be able to cover the distance with one good lung cookie and a helpful breeze, it makes sense.

Trying to stuff a city the size of Lawrence into a proverbial trash compactor and squeeze out a bit more juice is basically braindead. Study after study, in multiple states, have proven that the larger the class size, the less performance there is on test scores.

I am by no means educated enough in the fields required, but wouldn't a viable option be something along the lines of a satelite education system? Instead of 2 massive high schools, neither of which are running at peak efficiency due to student occupancy numbers, chop the city into quadrants. I am sure we can find an empty building in each quadrant that could be transformed into a viable school building, so that chops down the construction costs.

It's a spitball idea, and nothing close to being fleshed out enough to really be debated, but it could be interesting to sit down with a few like-minded people, literally or proverbially, and try to hash out some to most of it. I'm game if anyone else is.

By the by, I have one child in high school and one child in grade school, so I've got a couple of bucks in the prize pool, so to speak.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

I have seen study after study ..... Do the studies not show diminishing return below a certain class size?

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm sure there is, but we're not there yet.

8th grade reading scores on NAEP by class size

8th grade reading scores on NAEP by class size by chootspa

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

Thank you. good data. This is reading - are other subjects the same

Paul R Getto 5 years, 7 months ago

The best research suggests in can matter K-3. As the kids get older the effect diminishes. When Sam outlaws social promotion it will get interesting.

George Lippencott 5 years, 7 months ago

That is what I thought but I think it can also differ by subject (hard to sort K-3 or 4). I know we have supplemented our K-3 teachers with reading specialists and other programs as reading is fundamental. I do not know how those experts are counted in the table above or in other studies about numbers.

Back to my point. WE need a consistent baseline so we can communicate without yelling. The issue is complex. Efficiency is good particularly when applied to overhead and not mission.

Have we really become so negative toward our teachers that they see any effort to possibly change the system as a threat? Are they so compromised by their union they can not formulate their own perspectives and resist change reflexively?

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

1) Teachers don't see any effort to change the system as a threat. They see efforts to cut funding, remove seniority, add more unfunded mandates, or tie pay to performance as a threat. And it is a threat. If someone was wanting to cut funding for your job, you'd see it as a threat, too. Teachers wouldn't see changing the system to, say, require less paperwork, reduce class sizes, or offer universal preschool as a threat. Therefore, they don't see any effort to change the system as a threat. They see threats as a threat.

2) Teachers unions are made up of teachers. They aren't some strange group of hypnotists that tell teachers to do things or bribe them into corruption. They are teachers in a group. As a group, teachers like to have things like job stability, health benefits, and pay raises. Go figure. Teachers aren't obligated to join a union, and they're not obligated to agree with every position a union takes.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Without punctuation, I cannot tell if you're asking me if I feel better or telling me I should feel better. Punctuation is your friend. I'm not a teacher, and I'm not a union member. I just get tired of seeing teachers' unions demonized. It's such a GOP talking point, and it's a lie. Finland has nearly 100 percent teachers' union membership, and their schools are the best in the world. I'm not suggesting that union membership causes good schools, but it certainly doesn't hamper them.

As to your first question, I believe that librarians and reading specialists are usually counted as "teachers" when figuring out student to teacher ratios, but you'd have to look at the methodology of the study in question to know for sure.

George Lippencott 5 years, 6 months ago

It was a question and I thought I had marked it so.

I have a general love/hate relationship with unions. I consider them necessary to protect workers but the potential for excess is always there. They require regulation just as corporations do.

I am dead set against unions for government employees because it can lead to a rub my back and I will rub yours relationship to the detriment of those who pay the bills. I drool at the notion of my benefits package if I had been allowed to have a union.

Since government is not motivated by profit I do not see the need for worker protection in the same manner as in the private sector.

chootspa 5 years, 6 months ago

Concern about too cozy of a relationship is fair enough, but in a world where corporations are literally handing legislators bills to pass, I don't think it's actually that big of a concern right now. The scale seems a bit tilted in the other direction. Besides, teachers are taxpayers and citizens, too. They've got just as much right to lobby the government as everyone else. The argument against their rights comes mainly from people who simply don't like what they have to say.

By having union-negotiated contracts, the collective employees let the state know what they find to be acceptable working conditions. And it's in the interest of the state to know this, because one of the biggest measures of teaching effectiveness is experience. If you're constantly churning the teachers, you're going to shortchange the kids. And the state isn't motivated by profit, right?

Teachers do need other protections. What if they were forced to work with violent kids with no supports? What if they worked in schools that had inadequate fire safety policies? We can't assume that every legislator at every level magically sees all the problems, but we can assume that they'd pass those serious concerns on to their union rep.

George Lippencott 5 years, 6 months ago

Well, what if we send soldiers to war with inadequate equipment? Are your ready for a soldier’s union. They might demand a lot more money for themselves and the military/industrial complex. They have guns to enforce their demands. Right now you are taking away their jobs, their retirement, their health care and providing little or nothing in return. Might they not have cause to feel unwanted?

So, I prefer to error on the safe side and avoid all government unions. Teachers, as all government employees, are ultimately employed by the taxpayers who do listen and address issues given a lack of profit motive and a strong desire for responsible service.

I note your other point about business and employee treatment. Good point but not related to the teacher’s circumstance as noted above.

Sharon Nottingham 5 years, 7 months ago

Well, Dave, we get what we pay for. How can we bring higher paying jobs to Kansas when our students won't have as good of an education to work in those type of positions? Good teachers will leave for better paying districts. Lawrence has lost several good ones already. Our children are the future and we are doing them a disservice.

homechanger 5 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence teachers were all given iPads this past year. That is certainly necessary for teaching right? Waste is everywhere. Just look.

chootspa 5 years, 7 months ago

Ipads are extremely useful for teaching. Apple has introduced things like iBooks and iTunes U specifically for education. An iPad is also a lighter weight presentation device that can be plugged into an overhead projector, and it can be used for field assessments to see if students are meeting educational objectives. Lots of businesses are getting iPads for their employees to use for work related duties. Doesn't seem so strange to do it in a school.

And that's just off the top of my head. But I'm sure they just got them to play Angry Birds. 'Cause, you know. Ipads. Outrage.

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