Archive for Sunday, December 20, 2015

Questions on classroom spending cloud Kansas schools debate

December 20, 2015


— Republican Gov. Sam Brownback says he and many Kansas legislators won't be ready to consider big increases in aid to public schools until they are confident that enough of the money already spent on education is finding its way into the classroom.

But the lawmakers who expect to work on a new school funding law next year don't yet have a clear definition of what makes up classroom spending. Their uncertainty is likely to cloud discussions about how to distribute nearly $4.1 billion in annual aid to 286 school districts and how much to increase it.

Brownback said he and like-minded legislators would be willing to consider whether the state is spending enough on schools if more money were going directly to instruction.

"But right now, you've got this high percentage that's not getting to the classroom," Brownback said in a recent Associated Press interview.

Brownback's critics see such arguments as an attempt by Brownback and his allies to justify inadequate education funding.

"What is the classroom? What does that involve?" said Democratic state Rep. Ed Trimmer, of Winfield, a retired 33-year teacher. "Yes, I'd like to have had a raise or I'd like to have more money in materials and supplies, but I also didn't want the roof to leak on our computer equipment."

With Brownback's support, Republican legislators enacted a new school funding law earlier this year that junked a per-pupil formula for distributing aid and replaced it with predictable block grants. They argued that the old formula was too complicated and diverted dollars from classrooms.

Many superintendents dislike the new law, which doesn't call for an automatic increase in a district's aid if it gains more students or more of them live in poverty or have special needs. Four school districts have asked the Kansas Supreme Court to strike the law down. Even supporters see it as a stopgap policy because it expires in July 2017.

The court could rule early next year on whether the law prevents the state from fulfilling its duty under the state constitution to provide a suitable education for every child. The justices also could rule later in 2016 on whether Kansas spends enough money overall.

Educators frequently note that the state's basic aid per pupil under the old formula peaked at $4,400 during the 2007-08 school year, dropped during the Great Recession and was $3,852 before the new school funding law took effect earlier this year.

But even as that figure dropped, the state boosted spending on teacher pensions, aid for construction projects and other items, and total aid continues to set annual records.

Brownback said with public schools, "You have efficiencies that can be gained."

"This is about your back-office operation. This about how you purchase IT services or insurance or a series of things," he said. "No student would see any difference, but you would recognize more money available to put into the classroom to pay teachers more."

The State Department of Education said in 2014-15, districts spent 61 percent of their operating budgets on instruction. Some legislators and educators argue the definition of classroom spending should be broader, covering libraries, professional development for teachers and services for students, such as counseling.

"The assumption is that just spending more money, quote, 'in the classroom' gives you better results in the classroom," said Mark Tallman, a Kansas Association of School Boards lobbyist. "What matters is that you also have to spend enough."

But House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, said student test scores suggest not enough existing dollars are being spent in classrooms. The Department of Education reported in September that a majority of the 260,000 students who took standardized English and math tests in the spring weren't on track to be ready academically for college.

"We spend a tremendous amount on K-through-12," Merrick said. "The test scores indicate to me that it's not in the classroom."


Larry Sturm 2 years, 2 months ago

Did Brownback get a raise did the Kansas legislature get a raise did all of Kansas teachers get a raise? Fact Kansas teachers do not get paid enough for the amount of education they have to and the ongoing education they have to have, also they have to do a lot of over site on extra curricular activities that they don't get paid for.

Steve King 2 years, 2 months ago

Maybe why there is a teacher shortage.

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

There is no teacher shortage.

In Lawrence, this fall there were 525 applications for about 100 positions.

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 2 months ago

You're not going to see a teacher shortage in Lawrence, it's a bigger city, near Kansas City, and will always have people wanting to work there. Look around the state though, rural areas have teacher shortages, and inner city Kansas City has shortages, as well as Wichita.

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

The rural areas of Kansas, inner city KCK and Wichita also have shortages of attorneys, doctors, pharmacists, 4 year nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and so on. It is not because of a shortage in any of those professions. People don’t want to work and or live in those places.

So why should teachers be any different.

There is no statewide shortage of teachers. The universities in the state graduate plenty. How many of the 425 applicants to Lawrence School District that were turned down went to Scott City ?

Tracy Rogers 2 years, 2 months ago

Really? How many kids are graduating with a science or math teaching certificate? Or with a special ed certification?

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

Now you are doing a pivot from a general statewide teacher shortage to one in specific, hard to fill areas of teaching.

Yes there is a shortage of teachers in math, science, and even foreign language.

The state board of education addressed the shortage in these hard to fill positions by working with six innovative districts, including KCK and Blue Valley, to deal with this issue by modifying the licensure requirements in those teaching subjects. The six districts asked for the modification.

Naturally, the KNEA became hysterical about the program and fought it vociferously.

Barb Gordon 2 years, 2 months ago

Oh great. Somebody beetlejuiced him, and now we have to gather around the festivus pole while he tells us how his daughters, ex, and imaginary "trophy girlfriend" have disappointed him by becoming teachers.

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

Greetings Barbie.

You are certainly concerned with my personal life.

But if that's all you have to bring to a debate, so be it.

And, actually, I am very proud of the ladies in my life being teachers. It is what they wanted to do.

Barb Gordon 2 years, 2 months ago

Hello "Sam." Your personal life is your business, which is one of the reasons I'm sure you've chosen not to share it. I'm just talking about what you've presented as your persona on this forum.

Devin Wilson 2 years, 2 months ago

About those "dollars in the classroom" Game On for Kansas Schools explains this here, with help from Emporia Superintendent... September 20, 2015 All budget dollars support classroom Well said, Emporia Superintendent Theresa Davidson. We, too, share the goal of efficient and effective school spending but we are tired of the misuse of the terms “classroom” and “administrative” spending which are loosely defined, exclude/include many types of spending people think of as “classroom” spending and fail to acknowledge the important functions of the different types of spending.

“Indeed, the heart of our work in education is all about students and teachers in the classroom. Who can argue the challenge from state policymakers and politicians to ‘put more money into the classroom’? Nothing is more important than the lessons that prepare a student for the world outside that classroom. And yet, I struggle to identify anything or anyone in our schools that doesn’t end up ‘in the classroom.’

“The August 12 Tallman Education Report from the Kansas Association of School Boards contains an easy-to-understand explanation of what goes directly and indirectly into the classroom. Across the state, districts spend on average 51 percent of the budget for Instruction – teacher, aides and classroom materials. Yet, the remaining 49 percent of district expenditures support the classroom in some way.”

Read more here:

Don Schmittdiel 2 years, 2 months ago

Kansas teachers are making 15-20% less than the national average, and the legislature is worried about them taking raises out of their appropriations?

If we were talking CEO's we'd be hearing that you can't attract the best unless you're willing to pay. Why doesn't that rationale apply to teachers?

Steve King 2 years, 2 months ago

Well Sam of course everone wants to work in Lawrence but state wide it is a different story. This report from Fox4 just last month destroys your argument.

Kansas teacher shortage continues to get worse

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

Sorry Steve, but a 90 second story by a cub reporter on local TV does not disprove my statement. They spend more air time on lost dogs.

Fact is, few people want to teach in the KCK district because they don’t want to deal with the issues inherent in an inner city district. Is it a coincidence that Bonner and Piper have no such problems?

In the meantime, the Big 3 and Little 2 districts in JOCO have stacks of applications to choose from. I would imagine that Eudora has no such issues either. Teachers want to teach in the desirable places.

You can’t extrapolate anecdotes from a small TV story to state wide issues.

Larry Tucker 2 years, 2 months ago

Let's be honest. The current legislature would rather see more private charter schools and home-school education across Kansas. The problem is that their is less accountability in these schools with little or no testing required. Public schools equalize the opportunity for all kids no matter what their economic background is to be successful. Thank goodness the court system in Kansas is still independent of the legislature and governor. Parents, educators and those concerned with the future of all Kansas children must step forward and challenge those in Topeka that would destroy the purpose of public education.

Sam Crow 2 years, 2 months ago

You are not being honest. You are being highly partisan.

Paul R Getto 2 years, 2 months ago

They have chased the "65%" BS for years as a way to cut funds. No reality here, just ideology.

Kevin Millikan 2 years, 2 months ago

No, the problem is your local Government doesn't believe in education. Education does not equate to votes for them.

Richard Heckler 2 years, 2 months ago

The problem will always be Defunding and Dismantling of Public Education yet there is no hard evidence that any other source provides better than Public Education.

Defunding/Dismantling Public Education Team

Home Schooling can be a wonderful experience depending on curriculum and parents ability to provide the time and expertise. Should all families home school? I would say no.

There is no basis for Charter Schools to replace Public Education none whatsoever. Charter schools funnel public education funds away from public education which is irresponsible.

Private schools have always been available should parents want to make that choice. Parochial Schools have always been available should parents want to make that choice.

A large concern over and above the problem of defunding public education is the re-writing of textbooks aka altering the facts. It is underway which means parents will need to pay close attention to what students are being taught.

Profiteers are anxiously waiting to take over and will no doubt write the legislation that will of course include tax dollar funding for the big time for profit venture which will cast aside PTA's and other parental participation ultimately.

We parents will suddenly become "retail customers"that which replaces parental/taxpayer over sight which is what the Brownback administration has brought to Kansas.

Taxpayers are the largest group of stakeholders yet most of our politicians pretend we don't exist at all levels ....... local,state and in the halls of congress. How can this be?

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