Kansas City Star repeats bogus claim on school funding

A good portion of a recent Kansas City Star editorial appears to be a regurgitation of Duane Goossen’s bogus commentary for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, an organization that favors high spending, high taxes and is afraid to come out in public and defend their claims against those who can expose their false claims, says Dave Trabert of Kansas Policy Institute.

Kansas City Star repeats bogus claim on school funding

Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute

A good portion of a recent KC Star editorial appears to be a regurgitation of Duane Goossen’s bogus commentary for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, an organization that favors high spending, high taxes and is afraid to come out in public and defend their claims against those who can expose their false claims. A link to his piece is included in my blog post that shows how he tortures the truth.

The Star and Goossen (who may be the only state budget director ever involved in a Securities and Exchange Commission indictment for misrepresenting facts) both refer to “General Classroom Aid” as though it is an official form or aid, but they both know that that is not true. The Star didn’t capitalize the term as did Goossen but they get no pass for that; they repeated his claim (without attribution) that GCA is down $6 million. The claim is false because there is no such thing as general classroom aid! The state provided multiple funding sources in the old formula — including some that were authorized by the state but not run through the state general fund budget — but only local school districts and superintendents decide how much money goes to Instruction. Legislators and governors have no control over the amount of money allocated to Instruction.

Total funding increased nearly $2 billion over the last ten years. Instruction spending, only available through FY 2014, increased by $845 million since 2005 without counting a dollar of KPERS. That $845 million represents a 32% increase in per-pupil spending while inflation was 21%; the increase could have been even more if local school boards had chosen to direct some of their increased spending on other operating areas to Instruction, had chosen to operate other areas more efficiently and spent the savings on Instruction or used some of their unused aid from prior years instead of holding it in cash reserves.

Here’s where things stand on achievement after those large spending increases:

  • Only 32% of the 2015 graduating class who took the ACT test are considered college-ready in English, Reading, Math and Science. ACT test scores have barely changed.
  • Only 38% of 4th grade students are Proficient in Reading on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), a test that the Kansas Department of Education declared to be valid and reliable in a November 1, 2011 press release.
  • Low Income 4th graders are almost two years’ worth of learning behind others in Math (NAEP).
  • Only 24% of Low Income 8th graders are Proficient in Math (NAEP) and at the current pace, it will take 240 years for them to catch up to other students, and only 54% were Proficient on the last exam. FYI, the Legislature increased At Risk Aid, intended for helping low income kids, by more than 7-fold between 2005 and 2014.
  • 27% of students who graduated from Kansas high schools in 2013 and attended university in Kansas signed up for remedial training (Kansas Board of Regents); no data is available on students who went out of state or attended a private college.

These unacceptable outcomes are not necessarily anyone’s fault but it is everyone’s responsibility — especially the Legislature’s — to get it fixed. And just spending more on a system that for whatever reasons produced these results it not a solution. Been there, tried that.