Archive for Thursday, February 6, 2014

Link between school funding, performance debated

February 6, 2014


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  • — The state's top education official and the leader of a conservative think tank gave opposing views today about how well Kansas schools are performing and whether there is any connection between performance and the funding schools receive.

    Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker and Kansas Policy Institute president Dave Trabert testified side by side before a joint meeting of the Kansas House and Senate education committees.

    DeBacker pointed to scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, to show that, overall, Kansas ranks high compared with other states in student performance in reading and math.

    Last year, for example, she noted that Kansas ranked 11th in the nation in fourth-grade math scores and 12th in the nation in eighth-grade math.

    And since 2003, she noted, Kansas has reduced the percentage of students scoring "below basic" on those tests while increasing the number scoring at the "basic" and "proficient" levels.

    At the same time, however, DeBacker said the state's rankings last year were the lowest the state has achieved in a decade, and they occurred in the year when schools received the lowest amount of base funding from the state over that period: $3,838 per pupil.

    "We have not studied that," DeBacker cautioned, saying it would take more analysis to determine how much of the change in rankings was caused by reduced state funding.

    Trabert, however, said the overall scores for Kansas do not tell the whole story because there are wide gaps in achievement levels between students of different racial and economic backgrounds.

    "We really have a two-tiered education system in Kansas," Trabert said. "More money is not the answer."

    The exchange occurred as lawmakers and education officials await a Kansas Supreme Court decision in a school finance lawsuit that could force the Legislature to increase school funding by hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

    A trial court ruled last year that current funding levels violate the state constitutional requirement that the Legislature make "suitable provision" for financing the educational interests of the state.


    Richard Heckler 2 months ago

    ALEC at this point represents the state of kansas legislature. Numbers and such will be "cooked" accordingly which in essence is a fraud being perpetrated on Kansas taxpayers and voters.

    The Washington D.C. delegation also receives their "agenda" and talking points by way of ALEC.

    ALEC has a new partner named Aegis Strategic The firm, named Aegis Strategic, is run by a former top executive at Charles and David Koch's flagship advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, and it was founded with the blessing of the brothers' political advisers, three Republican operatives tell Mother Jones.

    The consulting firm plans to handpick local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs' free-market, limited-government agenda, and groom them to win elections. "We seek out electable advocates of the freedom and opportunity agenda who will be forceful at both the policy and political levels," the company notes on its website.

    (((( There is nothing about ALEC that supports "limited government" in fact quite the contrary)))

    Aegis says it can manage every aspect of a campaign, including advertising, direct mail, social media, and fundraising.

    The consulting firm Aegis Strategic plans to handpick local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs' politics.


    Scott Morgan 2 months ago

    For the most part, Asian schools drop students down sometimes 3rd-6th grade. These are the students will never see the test scores on. But, we are so often compared to. Yes, most countries can check the box, public education k-12, but in reality offer little for those not highly intelligent.


    Beator 2 months ago

    The United States spent more than $11,000 per elementary student in 2010 and more than $12,000 per high school student. When researchers factored in the cost for programs after high school education such as college or vocational training, the United States spent $15,171 on each young person in the system – more than any other nation covered in the report.

    Spending, of course, only tells part of the story and does not guarantee students' success. The United States routinely trails its rival countries in performances on international exams despite being among the heaviest spenders on education.


    Steve King 2 months, 1 week ago

    Dave, Dave, Dave. When are you going to realize you carry no weight here? When are you going to realize you've been outed as a paid Koch/Alec stooge and we all know it. Make up all the funky numbers you want, we all know your a "paid" spokesman. And we're laughing.

    Your privatization concepts have already been proven to be a ruse to the enrichment your masters only. Just look at the privatization of KanCare. Hospitals and Health Care Providers are now refusing to accept any more patients due to non payment of bills. Yep, the private sector are not paying their bills!

    Yep, privatization is the path to glory....

    Elections have consequences and I predict after the next election you'll be doing something else.


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    Thus far nowhere is there any indication that slashing public school budgets improve test scores and/or graduation rates

    Even though the state Constitution requires that it make “suitable provision” for financing public education, Gov. Sam Brownback and the Republican-led Legislature have made draconian cuts in school spending, leading to a lawsuit that now sits before the state Supreme Court.

    Lawsuits have successfully forced elected officials to increase school funding overall and to deliver more resources to poor students and those with special needs. If the Kansas Supreme Court rules otherwise, students in those states may begin to see the tide of education cuts return.

    Parents filed a lawsuit in the Kansas courts to challenge the cuts. In Gannon v. State of Kansas, a three-judge trial court ruled in January 2013 for the parents, finding that the cuts reduced per-pupil expenditures far below a level “suitable” to educate all children under Kansas’ standards.

    The judges also found that the Legislature was not meeting even the basic funding amounts set in its own education cost studies. The judges called the school funding cut “destructive of our children’s future.”

    To remedy the funding shortfall, the judges ordered that per-pupil expenditures be increased to $4,492 from $3,838, the level previously established as suitable.

    A victory for the parents would be heartening, but if it comes, would Governor Brownback and legislative leaders uphold the right to education guaranteed to Kansas school children?

    The signals thus far are not promising. If the Kansas Supreme Court orders restoration of the funding, legislators are threatening to amend the state’s Constitution by removing the requirement for “suitable” school funding and to strip Kansas courts of jurisdiction to hear school finance cases altogether.

    And if the amendment fails, they have vowed to defy any court order for increased funding or, at the very least, take the money from higher education.

    A court-stripping constitutional amendment, and defiance of a state Supreme Court order, would shred the very fabric of Kansas’ government and send shock waves through state capitals across the nation. It would allow elected branches to avoid any responsibility to adhere to the language and interpretation of their state constitutions by the courts.

    It would gravely undermine judicial independence and shut the courthouse door to vulnerable children who, as a last resort, seek legal redress to vindicate their fundamental right to an education.


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    Kansas’ current constitutional crisis has its genesis in a series of cuts to school funding that began in 2009. The cuts were accelerated by a $1.1 billion tax break, which benefited mostly upper-income Kansans, proposed by Governor Brownback and enacted in 2012.

    Overall, the Legislature slashed public education funding to 16.5 percent below the 2008 level, triggering significant program reductions in schools across the state. Class sizes have increased, teachers and staff members have been laid off, and essential services for at-risk students were eliminated, even as the state implemented higher academic standards for college and career readiness.

    Thus far nowhere is there any indication that slashing public school budgets improve test scores and/or graduation rates.


    Dave Trabert 2 months, 1 week ago

    Taxpayer support of public education continues to set new records according to KSDE, which predicts new records again this year at $5.9 billion or $12,885 per pupil.

    As for the comment that funding hasn't increased for the last fifteen years, KSDE shows that funding increased from $3.063 billion to $5.852 billion.


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    This page reveals how ALEC bills would privatize public education, crush teacher's unions, and push American universities to the right. Among other things, these bills make education a private commodity rather than a public good, and reverse America’s modern innovation of promoting learning and civic virtue through public schools staffed with professional teachers for children from all backgrounds.,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    ALEC Starving Public Schools

    The truth is their main complaint is using government funds to support any program that does not funnel taxpayer dollars to corporations and the wealthy, and they have particularly focused on what they call an obscene waste of money on public education that in their corporatist libertarian philosophy is better spent on for-profit private and religious schools.

    To bolster their contention that public education is failing miserably, they cite the deplorable performance of students enrolled in the public school systems, and they have had valuable assistance from corporate-owned media and the Koch brothers American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who want to send taxpayer dollars earmarked for public schools to corporate-owned private schools and religious programs.

    Public education advocates finally received a wealth of good news courtesy of data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) from a long-term trend study of tests given every four years in math and reading. According to the data, contrary to what Republicans, ALEC, and corporate-education advocates contend, America’s public education system has made consistent and equitable progress over the past four decades.


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    Kansas legislature has not been constantly throwing more money at Kansas public schools. For the past few years say 15 years the legislature has been throwing less and less money at Kansas Public Schools. Perhaps the Sam ALEC Brownback team missed that while living all those years in Washington,D.C.

    The bottom line is the Brownback Team wants to privatize the school system. In order to make a good system appear as though it is failing is first to paint the system as evil then keep pulling funding. When it comes to education politicians are not the experts that's for sure.

    There is no hard evidence to substantiate that the public school system is failing nor is there any hard evidence to substantiate that the public school system nor is there any hard evidence to substantiate the need to turn public school tax dollars over to private industry. Nothing but political rhetoric is on the table.


    Dave Trabert 2 months, 1 week ago

    This is only portrayed as being in opposition to public education as a means of defending the status quo...which has gotten to where we are today in Kansas. Even KSDE now admits that large achievement gaps for low income kids have existed for a long time and are getting wider.

    Even the Topeka Capital Journal says "Constantly throwing more money at the schools isn’t the answer to proficiency."

    Constantly demanding more money is simply giving institutional wants priority over student needs. When a seven-fold increase in At Risk funding doesn't make much difference in student outcomes, it's time to change the culture.


    Paul R Getto 2 months, 1 week ago

    The Insane Klown Posse picking up steam. VOTE next time, Sheeple!


    Richard Heckler 2 months, 1 week ago

    We know after years of cutting school funding budgets that cutting school funding does not improve anything so we may as well move forward to full funding of our public schools instead of making up excuses not to do so.

    Who's asking for more money considering the legislature has been in violation of the law. Obey the law is the answer. It is beginning to appear daily Kansas GOP law makers are law breakers.

    What do ALEC,Sam Brownback and Dave Trabert have against public education? Why didn't Sam Brownback advise during his campaign that he was opposed to public education and would try to terminate public education during his tenure? Sam Brownback was not being honest with voters.


    Mropus Wan 2 months, 1 week ago

    Let's see - the Kansas House and Senate is largely controlled and funded by the Koch Bros.


    Dave Trabert's KPI is a well known Koch Bros. supporter of education policy, and incidentally just so happens to be well-funded by the Koch Bros.


    I'm sorry, was there actually a "debate" here? Or was it just for entertainment purposes for the Legislature Education Committees? Because this "debate" was over before it even started, and we all know who's pulling who's strings here. Enough of the charade, please.


    William Weissbeck 2 months, 1 week ago

    I'd be curious about how the USD 501 schools are doing with the achievement gap, compared to the surrounding districts, especially Washburn Rural. In the 70's when I was there, the Topeka schools with a few exceptions were fairly uniform and produced large percentages of college bound. But USD 501 suffered from fact that the city of Topeka expanded but the school district lines were set. People could move to the surrounding districts, especially Rural and not leave the city. The relative tax bases changed. Now Rural is larger in student population than any of the 3 city high schools. The USD 501 administration hasn't changed much since the 70's. The schools probably even have some of the same teachers. In other words the basic structure and personal are likely little changed since the 70's. But if student performance has fallen compared to Rural, what is the changed variable? Would be an interesting study. Agreed putting more money into just the schools and the teachers might not be the answer. But doing nothing isn't the answer either. It will take money, money into targeted programs to change the variables to change the outcome. After all, it's all about the kids, isn't it? Curious - how do Free State and Lawrence High compare? Blue Valley compared to Shawnee Mission, compared to Wyandotte? These should be easy test models.


    Dave Trabert 2 months, 1 week ago

    MerrieAnnie completely mischaracterizes our efforts to improve public education.

    We are focused on meeting student needs and closing achievement gaps for low income students. Unfortunately, the wants of institutions has taken priority over student needs in Kansas. For years, institutional interests insisted that Kansas had very high achievement. But now, Diane DeBacker agrees with KPI that there is a very large achievement gap for low income students –and the gap is getting worse.

    She also agreed that our data on student achievement and total funding are accurate. Dr. DeBacker has a task force studying the achievement problem in search of solutions. More money, however, isn't the answer. The Legislature increased aid for low income students by seven-fold between 2005 and 2013, yet the gap is getting wider.

    Low income students are just as capable of learning as others; they just haven’t had equal opportunities to learn. MerrieAnnie et al will likely continue their ad hominem attacks. We'll keep working to create a better quality of life for low income students and their families.

    You can read my full presentation at


    Claudean McKellips 2 months, 1 week ago

    Why is the Kansas Legislature listening to AFP/Koch instead of constituents?>


    MerriAnnie Smith 2 months, 1 week ago

    Is Trabert suggesting that taking a failing child out of the public school system and putting him into a For Profit or Religious school will make him pass?

    Of course it won't. It will only make the church or the company that runs the schools richer.

    What is needed more than anything is a program that helps parents help their children. We desperately need that. For Profit schools and Religious schools not only don't do that, either... they won't even accept a failing child.

    Giving people a reason to hope will work a miracle in encouraging them to work hard toward success, and they will also be encouraged to help their children.

    But giving people a reason for hope does not come cheap.

    Trabert (and his boss the Koch brothers) have one goal in mind - demolish public schools and put most of the students into For Profit schools. What will happen is that most of the failing children will not be accepted, therefore we will continue to need a public school just for failing students. And soon, you can imagine, there will be nearly no tax dollars going to the public schools for failing students. And teachers who have the most to offer will not work in the public schools when that happens.

    It's a lose/lose proposition for students and for education in this state.

    The way it is now, good teachers do try to help the poor students. It is working fairly well. It could work even better if there was, as I said, a special effort to get the parents involved in the schooling. Right now, the whole burden of trying to encourage parents is on the teachers. Some of those teachers are really not that good at encouraging parents while treating them with respect at the same time. You can bet if it was a For Profit school, the failing student would simply be kicked out.

    The Kansas education status, then,will improve for the wealthier children who come from homes with well-educated parents, and it will drop like a ton of bricks for all the other children in this state.

    Remember, it is not the student's fault if his or her parents are not willing or able to help him.


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