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Archive for Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kansas teachers union to efficiency panel: ‘Stop cutting’

August 19, 2014

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— A spokeswoman for a union that represents teachers in the Wichita school district told a state education panel Tuesday that one way to make Kansas schools more efficient is to stop cutting.

"Our classrooms and teachers need not be inequitably saddled with the burden of balancing state budgets," said Deena Burnett, a former president of the Lawrence local teachers union who now lobbies for the American Federation of Teachers and United Teachers of Wichita.

Burnett was one of several education advocates who testified Tuesday before the state's K-12 Student Performance and Efficiency Commission. That group was established in the 2014 school finance bill to make recommendations to the 2015 Legislature on ways the state can make the best use of its education budget.

Citing a recent report published by Education Week, Burnett said that since 2009, "funding for educational programs that can actually be spent on teachers, administrators and student support programs has declined by $500 million."

Specifically, she said general fund budgets, which are set by the state, and special education funding have been cut by about $160 million.

The result, Burnett said, has been sluggish economic growth and lower wage earnings for Kansas workers.

"A state's economy cannot outpace the quality of its public schools and any stifling of funding is in essence a stifling of state growth," Burnett said.

The report she cited, however, based its analysis on state spending in 2011, and did not take into account increases that the Legislature has approved since then, including increases ordered earlier this year by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Her remarks stood in stark contrast to recent statements by Gov. Sam Brownback, who says total education funding has grown to an all-time high under his administration and that the state's economy is showing strong signs of recovery.

The remarks also drew sharp criticism from one of the commission members, Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based in Wichita.

"Funding for education has increased, according to the Department of Education, every year since 2012," Trabert said.

Trabert, however, was referring to the total K-12 education budget, which includes state contributions to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, or KPERS, as well as other spending not directly tied to classroom spending.

The biggest sources of funding for schools — and the ones that directly affect each district's ability to fund teacher salaries and other direct educational costs — are the general fund and the supplemental fund, often called the "local option budget."

Each district's general fund budget is determined on a per-pupil basis. And since 2009, base funding per pupil has gone down, from about $4,000 to $3,858 today.

In addition to their general funds, districts are allowed to add up to 30 percent through a local option budget, funded mainly from local property taxes. The state subsidizes those budgets on a sliding scale to equalize taxes between rich and poor districts.

But for three years after the recession, Kansas lawmakers froze funding for that equalization aid, which meant districts received less than they were otherwise entitled to receive.

Earlier this year, the Kansas Supreme Court declared that unconstitutional, and the Legislature eventually complied with an order to restore full funding for the equalization aid.

The K-12 commission also heard from representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas and the Kansas National Education Association.

They urged the commission not to equate efficient spending with less spending.

Commission chairman Sam Williams, a former chairman of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce, said the panel was not looking for ways to cut education spending, but rather ways to make the best use from what the state spends.

Comments

Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

Taxpayer should want more tax dollars spent on public education because it brings our tax dollars home….. which are spent in many many many local economies.

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

Richard Heckler 4 months, 1 week ago

Taxpayer should want more tax dollars spent on public education because it brings our tax dollars home….. which are spent in many many many local economies.

Why do GOP elected officials want to destroy public education… intentionally?

Public education has for decades and decades been one of the government success stories in reality a best bang for the tax buck.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on local economies.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on the real estate industry and home sales.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on property values after the economy goes down the tubes one more time at the direction of the GOP one more time.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on home loan bankruptcy activity.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on car sales.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on local sales taxes.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on local carpenters,plumbers,painters,landscape maintenance crews etc etc etc.

Thousands of public school teachers throughout Kansas could receive pink slips. Think what impact that would have on the overall quality of life in the state of Kansas thanks to the GOP one more time.

Taxpayer should want more tax dollars spent on public education because it brings our tax dollars home….. which are spent in many many many local economies.

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 months, 1 week ago

Please don't call them facts, they are your skewed numbers

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

The facts are all provided by the Kansas Dpt. of Education.

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 months, 1 week ago

The raw numbers yes but you then go and hand pick the ones that you want to use so they fit the story you are trying to tell. And when someone calls you out on that fact you change the subject or say something along the lines of they better like it or you will just get rid of that money all together. That seems to be the conservative way, you will take what we give you and shut up and be happy or we Take even more until you fold.

Tracy Rogers 4 months, 1 week ago

Here's a fact for you Dave. I've been on our local school board for 14 years. During that time our student enrollment has decreased by 13 percent. Also during that time period our certified staff has decreased 27 percent. If we get any more "efficient" we'll be closing the doors. But then, that's what you want isn't it?

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

The spin is provided by you. Otherwise, you'd just link to the Department of Ed and call it a day.

Philipp Wannemaker 4 months, 1 week ago

Dave, you posted it, Its a lie. Nothing new.

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

and yet you cannot offer any evidence to support your claim.

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

His "claim" was hyperbolic. That's a form of speech people use to exaggerate for the sake of emphasizing a point. His point was entirely valid, even if his literal claim was not. Not everything you post is a lie. However, everything you post here is designed to further your political interests as a Koch/ALEC lobbyist. That includes a lot of half-truths, cherry-picking, missing information, biased interpretations, the lack of disclosure, etc. We can't trust a word we read from you.

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

Here's a post brought to you by our Koch sponsors.

Kevin McWhorter 4 months ago

So tell me Dave, if K-12 spending is about half the General Fund, or about $3 billion, and next year the State increased spending by $100 million and gave all $3.1 billion to KPERS and not one dollar to K-12 schools, would you still try to tell the Kansas citizen the State increased funding for schools?

James Howlette 4 months ago

Yes. And he'd post repeatedly about how the Supreme Court now says that has to count in the total, so anyone disputing that awesome increase in school funding is just "ignoring" the facts.

Kevin McWhorter 4 months ago

I don't think Dave is going to answer my question....

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

Thank you Peter for breaking it down and helping us understand the numbers and where they came from. More of that, please.

Steve King 4 months, 1 week ago

The facts are "Each district's general fund budget is determined on a per-pupil basis. And since 2009, base funding per pupil has gone down, from about $4,000 to $3,858 today."

"The remarks drew sharp criticism from one of the commission members, Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based in Wichita." He said school funding was up. But he included KEPERS and other non classroom expenditures ignoring the per pupil funding decline.

Funny how they now take credit for increases they were forced by the courts to make.

Trabert...a fox in the henhouse.

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

The Kansas Supreme Court says all funding, including KPERS, must be counted towards adequacy. By the way, spending on Instruction also set a new record in 2013. 2014 breakouts are not yet published.

David Reber 4 months, 1 week ago

True, but to knowingly begin counting additional monies that were already being spent - but that weren't included in earlier tallies used for comparison - and then pat yourselves on the back for "increased" spending is most dishonest.

Speaking of dishonest, anyone else see a conflict of interest here having Dave "public schools are grossly over-funded, and teachers are 50% over-paid" Trabert on this so-called "efficiency" task force? More like a "fabricate justification for further cuts to public education" task farce.

Amy Varoli Elliott 4 months, 1 week ago

It is a serious conflict of interest, a person with morals would excuse themselves

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

KPERS has been included in reported totals since 2005. We routinely provide KPERS-adjusted numbers when comparing to prior years.

I have never said anything of the sort as falsely portrayed by Mr. Reber.

James Howlette 4 months ago

And the increase in KPERS back-fill isn't noted as such.

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

And it ONLY took a second Supreme Court case to get the state to achieve that "adequate" funding. Pat yourselves on the back y'all. Kansas is no longer constitutionally under-funding their schools. And Brownie's gonna appoint his favorite crony to the SC rather than make better legislative choices in the future.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 4 months, 1 week ago

This is what I saw before I retired. Teachers were getting less and less money to spend on supplies for their classrooms. Field trips, unless they were paid for through some other source were cut off. Funds to send teachers to conferences, where they could share ideas and become better teachers were cut off. Many subject matter groups started having their conferences on Friday nights and Saturday all day, so the schools didn't need a sub, but even then teachers often had to come up with their own money to attend. All money was diverted to anything that had to do with the standardized testing that please politicians. Money is spent on testing and pretesting to monitor the progress, so when the final test comes they know what it going to happen, but electives suffer, creativity is destroyed. We are creating good little test takers, but are they really educated?

Bob Reinsch 4 months, 1 week ago

Dave, is the long term goal of your organization the elimination of public education funding? That's a simple yes or no question. Many of us are aware of the Koch ties to the organization you represent, and we're also aware that one of the planks when David Koch ran for Vice President was the elimination of public education. What is your position? Eliminate or not?

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

No. Those perpetuating that myth are merely employing scare tactics.

BTW, we are a completely independent organization.

Philipp Wannemaker 4 months, 1 week ago

Do you really believe anyone with a functioning brains believes your lies?

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

If, by independent, you mean funded by the Kochs both directly and indirectly, but without any legal requirement to disclose your funding sources, sure. You're "independent." Just like all the other State Policy Network "stinktanks."

James Howlette 4 months, 1 week ago

You asked the wrong question. He doesn't want to eliminate public education funding. He wants to eliminate public schools. He wants to transfer that money to non-public and for-profit entities (or as KPI put it, "educational entrepreneurs") through voucher and charter programs. His short term goal is to claim it is for low income/high risk groups and broaden charters to include universities and other entities, but that's a foot in the door for the long term goal - which is the full Friedman.

James Howlette 4 months ago

A mature and well-reasoned response of the quality we've come to expect from KPI.

Meanwhile, your website lists universal vouchers as a long term goal in a white paper (http://www.kansaspolicy.org/ResearchCenters/Education/Studies/d79705.aspx), including,and this is my favorite, the idea of a lump sum voucher plus allowed co-tuition. A scholarship for rich, private schools. How charming! Totally in line with your short-term statements about this just being to benefit the poor people, no?

Dave Trabert 4 months ago

No, it does not list that as a long-term goal of KPI. As I remind you every time you attempt to imply otherwise, that paper is academic review of multiple options that are considered by a wide range of people. Our recommendations for school choice are very clear. Tax credit scholarships for low income students, a system of allowing special education funding to follow the child and public charter schools that can authorized independent of the local school district.

James Howlette 4 months ago

As I remind you, in only the second time we've had this discussion, (making a very small data set for "every time,") there is no disclaimer to that effect on the whitepaper. None. KPI guarantees the "quality" of the data. KPI brands the heck out of the paper (which - "academic" my left foot) You prominently feature those authors on your website.

While it's true your specific lobby efforts and short term goals have been less ambitious (and jointly sponsored and in line with Friedman Foundation strategies), they're obviously geared towards getting the camel's nose in the tent. But then, even if we let you pretend that all you want are the minor efforts to divert tax money from the public school system that you propose now, there's still no credible evidence that it would improve outcomes.

Kevin McWhorter 4 months ago

charter schools receiving public funding but not under the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education or the local school board? How do you justify accountability to the taxpayer let alone stay in compliance with the State Constitution?

James Howlette 4 months ago

He gets the governor to appoint cronies to the court and then the problem of constitutional conflict goes magically away.

But it's always struck me as ironic that groups claiming they want "efficiency" and "transparency" are advocating to funnel tax money to entities with less accountability and transparency.

Kevin McWhorter 4 months ago

James, what KPI is after is whatever ALEC is after, which is educational segregation and for profit schools which receive public funds but have no accountability to the taxpayer or State Board of Education in direct violation of the State of Kansas Constitution. Legislators who vote for this and violate their oath to uphold the State Constitution are directly telling the public to sue them or vote them out of office. Since incumbents are rarely voted out because the voter rarely truly understands the issues due to the blatant lies of political commercials, the result is litigation costing millions of dollars and taking five years to get through the Courts. In the meantime, unconstitutional legislation is passed and implemented to the detriment of kids and to the financial gains of for-profit corporations.

James Howlette 4 months ago

So I take it that you have no supporting facts on that one, Dave.

Bryan Anderson 4 months, 1 week ago

The reality of the numbers is that KPERS has been ridiculoulsly underfunded, but now is only just severely underfunded.

KPI and the Governor get to claim Education spending is up, when in reality General State Aide has been cut, and although Special Ed cost keep rising, Special Ed funding has remained level. That means less money is actually getting to the classroom, where it actually matters. But, spin it however you want. Kansans are smarter than that.

Dave Trabert 4 months, 1 week ago

Districts decide how much money gets to classrooms. Some put less than 50% of funding into Instruction. Some are above 60%, with the average at about 55%...which hasn't changed much over the years. FYI, Instruction spending per-pupil set a record in 2013. Data for 2014 isn't available yet.

Tracy Rogers 4 months ago

Every penny a school "gets" and spends has to do with "getting it to the classroom." I'm so sick and tired of hearing the crap about get more money to the classroom. Every job in a school district is there to help give a child a quality education. What gives you or anyone else the right to pick and choose what jobs or people are relevant in providing an education.

Devin Wilson 4 months ago

Hi Dave. (fyi other readers, we've met) Changing the way we count funding, doesn't change the amount of funding going to schools, going to classrooms. This is a common fallacy promulgated by Dave Trabert, Shawn Sullivan, Governor Sam Brownback, and others. I wish just moving $$$ from column to column in a ledger sheet would magically add funding. FACT: It doesn't. We can no longer compare total funding accurately from year to year, since we are changing the way it is counted, due to the Supreme Court. People understand the source of your data, and it's validity. What you then do to the data is highly suspect. You may not care to admit it, but this "record funding" is paying back KPERS, which has been neglected, and bonds. True factual fact: in USD 512, class sizes are at record levels, and we are reducing paraprofessionals. The bad choices in Topeka for the past several years are causing real and permanent damage. My kiddo doesn't get to go back to Kindergarten to retake it with a class size of 15-17. All those kids got by with a ROCKSTAR of a teacher who was able to pull off successfully teaching 26 energetic, enthusiastic kiddos! Not all teachers are superhuman, sadly, and we are losing good ones. Flashing back to pre-recession times, with the Montoy decision, the courts forced the Kansas Legislature to come up with a funding number. They agreed on a Base Student Aid Per Pupil number. Adjusting for inflation, BSAPP would have been in 2013 $6001 We're at $3838 + $14 with the ed funding bill. Quite a gap. And we're supposed to squeeze tighter, and make up this funding gap with efficiencies, AND increase performance? As the formerly respectable journalist John Stossel puts so eloquently, "Give me a break!"

Side note to readers: Ask your teachers, what they would do first if schools were adequately funded? LET'S DO THIS! GET IN THE GAME! Devin Wilson Lenexa KS

Dave Trabert 4 months ago

Devin offers much in the way of rhetoric but is light on facts, including some very pertinent ones that he ignores. Such as...Montoy no longer applies because the Supreme Court said that made their decision in Montoy based on how the facts were presented at the time. They now see things differently (perhaps because it is now understood that the cost study used in Montoy was deliberately skewed to provide inflated numbers) and neither Base State Aid nor 'actual cost' is the touchstone for determining adequacy.

The Supreme Court says all funding, including KPERS, must count. But Devin and others refuse to acknowledge the court ruling. They also neglect to mention that no funding decisions have ever been based on efficient use of taxpayer money or that every Legislative Post Audit study has found school districts to be operating inefficiently. They neglect to mention that Base State Aid is only part of the unrestricted money flowing to districts. And they neglect to mention that schools haven't even spent all of the money provided by taxpayers.

The number of teacher aides are being reduced in Shawnee Mission because the district is converting part time people to full time. Same coverage but at a better price.

Now lets look at class sizes. The pupil / classroom teacher ratio was 16.4 to 1 in 1993. It was 15.5 to 1 in 2005 and fell again to 15.4 to 1 in 2014. Teacher employment is growing faster than enrollment. If class sizes are increasing under such circumstance, it's a result of many different management decisions and some union agreements.

In the case of Shawnee Mission, your pupil / classroom teacher ratio fell from 18.4 to 1 to 17.9 to 1. But while enrollment fell 6.2% since 2005, the number of non-teaching positions increased by 10.7%. Regardless of the reasons, those are management decisions.

By the way, I have given Devin's group an open offer to come speak to them about these issues. They have thus far not been interested.

Claudean McKellips 4 months ago

If we can afford taxpayer funded ALEC vacations, for corrupt legislators, in Kansas, we can afford to take care of our kids. http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2013/aug...

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