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Students deserve equalization, too

SchoolFrom Kansas Policy Institute.

Students Deserve Equalization, Too
By Dave Trabert

A recent story in the Topeka Capital-Journal said some districts are considering raising local property taxes because equalization aid to school districts has remained steady for several years.  Districts may want more taxpayer money, with in equalization aid or elsewhere, but that has no bearing on what schools need.

Equalization is a sound policy – no child’s education should be dependent upon the property values of a given district – but equalization should sit on top of a funding plan that gives schools what they need. That’s not the case in Kansas; no study has ever been conducted that determines what schools need to attain required outcomes and operate efficiently.  The cost study cited in Montoy and Gannon was supposed to take efficiency into account but the authors chose to ignore efficiency and deliberately gave the courts inflated numbers.

We need a funding mechanism that is student-focused, not institution-focused.  Legislators should dig deep into the spending and achievement data, determine what it costs to have schools operating efficiently and effectively and design an appropriate funding system.

But speaking of student-focused – how’s this for irony?  Districts support equalization of funding but they oppose equalization of education opportunity for students. Many low income students are forced to attend the school district their parents can afford, yet the education lobby is vehemently opposed to charter schools and tax credit scholarships for low income kids.

Equalization should be a two-way street.