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Archive for Monday, April 14, 2014

Lawrence would lose $1.7 million from school finance changes

April 14, 2014

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  • Lawrence public schools stand to lose $1.7 million a year in annual budget authority due to changes in the school finance formula approved by Kansas lawmakers.

    That was the report Monday night that district finance officials gave to the Lawrence school board.

    But the district could make up part of that loss - about $1.4 million of it - by taking advantage of a provision allowing it to raise its local option budget, or "LOB" authority, from 31 percent to 33 percent of its base state aid, effectively shifting part of the burden of funding Lawrence schools from the state to local property tax payers.

    "If this all holds true, you can count on a recommendation from us to go to a 33-percent LOB," Superintendent Rick Doll said. "And I just want to say that publicly so the board and the community can start to think about that."

    The changes in the school finance formula were included in a bill that was meant to address a recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling. But in addressing the court's ruling, lawmakers also changed parts of the formula. They also added several controversial policy measures including the repeal of tenure rights for veteran teachers.

    "Who would have thought that a court order to equalize funding would lead to this mess," board president Rick Ingram asked rhetorically.

    The net loss for Lawrence is almost entirely the result of changes in the way local option budgets are calculated. Under the bill passed by the Legislature, virtual school students would no longer count as part of a district's total enrollment when calculating LOB authority.

    That would result in a net loss to Lawrence of about $2 million a year because Lawrence has one of the largest virtual school programs in the state, with almost 1,400 students.

    Supporters of that change argued that most virtual school students don't actually live in the districts where they enroll because virtual schools can enroll students from anywhere in the state. So, while the districts receive base state aid to fund the virtual programs, supporters of the change said districts like Lawrence should not profit from it by including virtual students in their LOB calculations.

    But Doll defended the current funding system, arguing that the base money the district receives goes to pay the direct cost of virtual education, while the additional LOB money generated by those students helps pay the administrative costs associated with them.

    "It is spent on virtual kids because we support Keith (Wilson, principal at Lawrence Virtual School)," Doll said. "Everybody here at the district office supports Keith. Everybody here supports those virtual kids."

    If Lawrence raises its LOB to 33 percent of its general state aid, that would generate about $1.4 million in new revenue. But that would still leave Lawrence with a net reduction of $343,134.

    Assistant Superintendent Kyle Hayden cautioned that those estimates are based on the district's current enrollment, and they assume no increase in enrollment next year.

    "I don't think this is what the court was expecting, or will look upon very favorably," board member Shannon Kimball said. "Taking money away from some students to give to other students is not really what they had in mind."

    Kimball also criticized the amendment that repeals teacher tenure rights, which gives veteran teachers the right to an administrative due process hearing before they can be fired or non-renewed for the following year.

    "I think it's very troubling that legislators who were shepherding this through the process decided to do away with 50-plus years of public policy in this state without giving it a public hearing," she said. "I think it shows a profound disrespect both for the constituents across the state and the process."

    The Lawrence district has already begun negotiations with its teachers union on a contract for next year. But union officials have said if that provision becomes law, they will seek to add "additional items" to the list of issues being discussed in those talks.

    Doll would not comment on how the district would respond, saying it is too early to discuss the issue because Gov. Sam Brownback has not yet signed the bill into law.

    Comments

    Steve King 5 months, 1 week ago

    A 1.7 million dollar loss. In Lawrence alone. Bottom Line: They don't have the court ordered funds. Solution: Permission to raise property taxes (get half the money from us). Reality: We pay more. Winners: Corporations.

    KEPERS being funded with gambling funds. A clear violation of the law.

    Too many extremists to pass a clean bill. Sneaky 3:00 am passage.

    My Solution:

    Vote the bums out.

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    Oh yay! Higher property taxes for everyone! Thanks so much, state legislators.

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    Thomas Bryce 5 months, 1 week ago

    Exactly, James! I am amazed at how many posters on here praise these changes as if they Only affect the other Party. Got news for Ya, Republicans: These changes will affect you as well. So, Keep cheering them on. It is your future too!

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    Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 5 months, 1 week ago

    And at election time they will go around bragging that they didn't raise taxes, and the sad thing is many people will believe them.

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    Dave Trabert 5 months, 1 week ago

    USD 497 spending information on file at KSDE shows that Lawrence spent $5,316,576 on Virtual Education in 2013, including $405,638 for Administration. The district transferred $5,772,736 from its General Fund to the Virtual Fund for Virtual Aid, which more than covered all of its costs. No money was transferred for LOB. Provided that USD 497 recorded Virtual Education spending in accordance with the KSDE Accounting Handbook, LOB money for virtual students was not needed to cover any virtual costs and appears to have been spent on something else.

    Spending and aid data comes from the KSDE Comparative Performance and Fiscal System.

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    And here's a little light reading on KPI as part of the SPN. http://stinktanks.org/kansas/

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    Dave Trabert 5 months, 1 week ago

    Typcial ad hominem from Mr. Howlette. Note the absence of any comment on the facts presented.

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    Notice that this was a separate comment in a separate thread and not entirely irrelevant to the discussion. Knowing that you're a Koch-funded lobbyist who comes to post on company time gives us a lens with which to evaluate the information you present. Fact checking goes beyond data integrity. It also goes into context in which the information is presented.

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    Dave Trabert 5 months, 1 week ago

    So you still have no comment about or dispute with the facts I shared that come directly from the Lawrence financial records?

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    Nice try. I think the game in your world is to pretend that context doesn't matter and that if you can copy and paste facts and figures from a verifiable source, it means you're a credible authority on the subject. Simply not true.

    We're still talking about how you're a paid lobbyist. Knowing that you're a Koch-funded lobbyist who comes to post on company time gives us a lens with which to evaluate the information you present.

    I think Jeff has already begun to address what it is that you're not including and the context you're leaving out, but I see you've already copied and pasted your usual talking points in response.

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    Julius Nolan 5 months, 1 week ago

    When I see name Dave Trabert on any post, I know its pure Koch paid BS propaganda.

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    Jeff Plinsky 5 months, 1 week ago

    Note the absence of any comment from Mr. Trabert on the loss of $1.7 million to USD 497.

    Note the absence of any comment from Mr. Trabert on the necessity of increasing local property taxes so that the loss is reduced to only $300,000.

    Note the hypocrisy of creating educational funding equality by taking dollars away from Lawrence, while simultaneously complaining other places about how progressive tax structures redistribute income from the wealthy to the poor.

    Note the extensive history of KPI's efforts to starve public education, a system that has worked well in Kansas.

    Note the KPI willingness to recommend policies that force the state to spend tax dollars fighting legal battles.

    Note the KPI unwillingness to recommend policies that spend tax dollars on children, the impoverished, citizens with disabilities, the elderly, health care, or programs to improve the general quality of life in Kansas.

    Mr. Trabert, your ideas are damaging the state I love. Please stop pretending that KPI is anything other than a mouthpiece for corporate entities that want to create an environment favorable for their success, at the expense of others if necessary.

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    Dave Trabert 5 months, 1 week ago

    Fair enough. Lawrence may be losing money but the data shows that Lawrence could easily operate without that $1.7 million. Since 2005, Lawrence increased operating cash reserves from $5.3 million to $39.3 million. That $34 million increases represents tax dollars intended for education that were used to increase cash reserves.

    To this day, not a single superintendent, legislator, policy analyst and certainly no judge knows what schools need to achieve required outcomes while also making efficient use of taxpayer money. No such analysis has ever been conducted in Kansas. We do know, however, that every Legislative Post Audit study on school efficiency has found that districts are not operating efficiently.

    Accusations about KPI efforts are not true. We report on the facts of school spending, money used to increase cash reserves and the ability to operate more efficiently but that is not about starving education...it's simply providing facts.

    We also report the truth on student achievement. Mr. Plinsky has undoubtedly been told that the education system 'works well' but even KSDE Commissioner Diane DeBacker now admits to what we've been reporting for several years - there is a large and growing achievement gap for about half of the students in Kansas. Those who are considered low income based on eligibility for free and reduced lunch are several years' worth of learning behind. And the gap has gotten worse even though At Risk funding increased from $52 million to $385 million over the last eight years.

    We do NOT not recommend spending money on children, the impoverished, etc. as Mr. Plinsky claims. We recommend that all tax dollars be spent efficiently and effectively. It's a shame that anything other than 'just spend more' is portrayed as wanting to de-fund something.

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    Julius Nolan 5 months, 1 week ago

    Dave, admit it, KPI is just a Koch funded propaganda machine.

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    He really really doesn't like this link that admits it for him. http://stinktanks.org/kansas/

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    The "data shows" and "easily" are actually subjective judgements you're making based on your repeated assertions that "efficiencies" are magically found when cuts are made. The cuts that you're also "not not" recommending. For you, the word "efficiency" is, in fact, the same as the word "cut."

    Many of the accusations about KPI efforts are absolutely true. You've left a paper trail. You're working towards privatizing the school system with charters/vouchers. You repeatedly report out of context facts, such as spending that isn't corrected for inflation to show greater changes over time and including KPERS to imply that the money would be available for some other purpose.

    You report "the truth" on student achievement when it suits your purposes. Usually out of context. You repeatedly make misleading statements about the quality standards in order to imply students are undereducated and make apples and oranges comparisons in testing. Your data is riddled with implied Type I errors. Achievement gaps are real things, impacting the entire nation, and not solved by either funding cuts or voucher/charter programs.

    If, as you insist, you'd prefer to redirect that money into other poverty reduction measures, we're all ears, but the only "poverty" you really seem to want to reduce is that of the Kochs.

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    Steve Jacob 5 months, 1 week ago

    I have always complained about the "cash cow" of virtual school. Why do we take kids out of district. All it did was lower the USD 497 graduation rates. The school board answer is always raise mill rates. We approve bonds and then they change what they do with it.

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    Dave Trabert 5 months, 1 week ago

    Having examined the virtual spending and aid of every district, I can assure you that virtual school is not a 'cash cow.' There was less than $1 million difference between virtual spending and virtual weighting aid transferred last year, and some districts that received aid didn't record any expense. Since they have virtual students, it seems that those districts didn't do their accounting properly.

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    James Howlette 5 months, 1 week ago

    In other words, it's really a pity the school district isn't giving that public taxpayer money to a private for-profit entity anymore.

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    Julius Nolan 5 months, 1 week ago

    Dave, give it up, Every logical, thinking person knows you merely post what Kochs tell you too. Assume you are very well paid for your lack of ethics and honesty.

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    Steve King 5 months, 1 week ago

    Oh Dave, don't you know we see right through you and your propaganda?

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    Julius Nolan 5 months, 1 week ago

    Dave is well paid for posting Koch lies.

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