Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

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.


homechanger 1 year, 5 months ago

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


Sharon Nottingham 1 year, 5 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.


George Lippencott 1 year, 5 months ago

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


Armored_One 1 year, 5 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.


Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 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)


Richard Heckler 1 year, 5 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.


concerned_citizen 1 year, 5 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?


George Lippencott 1 year, 5 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


oldbaldguy 1 year, 5 months ago

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


alcoholbliss 1 year, 5 months ago

You all argue over who cut what where, schools can't keep up with the price of tech anyway.

Why Mobile Will Transform Learning: The Classroom of the Future

What kids/adults don't learn or retain in schools can be most likely looked up again on line anyway, providing they have access.


autie 1 year, 5 months ago

Despite all the bobblehead talk and numbers..pretty numbers, the policy direction is clear. And that policy is not good for growing Kansas or improving education. The paid bobblehead says: "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." Go to the classroom? Bull, every dime you all figure to cut goes to justify lowering the income tax rate for the upper by 25% and throwing the lower end earners a 14% bone. Along with the rest of it. Why Jesus might just tell Sam that learning by the light of the fireplace and ritin on the back of a shiny shovel with a piece of charcoal is just fine...I know my district could have gotten along just fine with those building built in the 30's that have been remodeled twenty times and still have the furnaces that you cain't get parts for...and 70 year old plumbing...Why doesn't the administration find ways to support districts and teachers and build consensus instead of setting up web sites to rat out waste?


jafs 1 year, 5 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.


question4u 1 year, 5 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.


George Lippencott 1 year, 5 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??


consumer1 1 year, 5 months ago

Oops, here is the school boards statement. "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". Every time the school board is held to a standard they use this same old worn out statement. While at the same time increasing pay for administrators, remodelling offices at 497 and giving themselves bonus's. WOW sounds like our politicians doesn't it.


consumer1 1 year, 5 months ago

This statement is just rhetoric to move their chess peices into the winning position. "


Getaroom 1 year, 5 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?


ibroke 1 year, 5 months ago

dave--- the liberals in this chat dont need facts they just want to vent about brownback and the koch brothers


Phillbert 1 year, 5 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.


cowboy 1 year, 5 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


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 5 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 1 year, 5 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.


Jackie Jackasserson 1 year, 5 months ago

Based on his restructuring of other state offices, Brownback's idea of effeciency is slash lots of small direct service positions, and replace with a few friends at a higher salary in administrative positions. He will likely find a way to slash KSDE positions and replace those with people he likes in some manner.


Paul R Getto 1 year, 5 months ago

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


volunteer 1 year, 5 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...


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