Progress in Kansas

Progressives throughout Kansas are up in arms over the prospect that our state might someday have no income tax. They point to moderate, common sense Kansas governance that they claim has built Kansas into a great state.

Here’s one writer:

Who will stand up to this Governor and say that there is a self inflicted and avoidable form of cancer being foisted upon the body politic of Kansas. … This cancer is self defeating, self sustaining, and metastasizing rapidly. Who will try to stop it? Who will find the cure? Who among us will find the courage to stand up to the bully and stop feeding the beast?

Funny. I thought government was the beast that we taxpayers have been feeding. When taxing and spending is reduced, and when people are allowed to keep more of what is rightfully theirs — that’s a reduction reduction in bullying, and puts government on a diet.

In the Winfield Daily Courier, Dave Seaton wrote “Neither the Senate nor the courts are any longer a bulwark against extremism in Topeka. The Senate has become a palace guard for the governor, and the courts are fighting for their independence. We, the people in the middle — moderate Republicans, moderate Democrats and unaffiliated voters — are the only force that remains to turn our state back to a common sense direction.”

We might ask Mr. Seaton what is the record of moderate and common sense Kansas government? Perhaps the most important issue for most Kansans is jobs. In this regard, Kansas — under leadership of moderates and “common sense” governors — has performed poorly. A chart of the number of private sector jobs in Kansas as compared to a few surrounding states over the past eleven years shows Kansas at or near the bottom. (Kansas is the thick black line. Data is indexed so that all states start at the same relative position.)

Kansas private sector job growth compared to other statesKansas private sector job growth compared to other states. Data is indexed, with January 2001 equal to 1. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Incredibly, not long ago Kansas was reported to be the only state to have a loss in private sector jobs over a year-long period. (Revisions since then have shown a small gain in jobs.) This is the culmination of governance by the coalition of moderate, traditional Kansas Republicans and Democrats.

Here’s a link to an interactive visualization of job growth in the states. You can compare Kansas to any other state or combination of states. Can we be satisfied with the performance of Kansas?

Further evidence of the harm of moderate Republican/Democratic “common sense” governance was revealed last year when the Tax Foundation released a report examining tax costs on business in the states and in selected cities in each state. The news for Kansas is worse than merely bad, as our state couldn’t have performed much worse: Kansas ranks 47th among the states for tax costs for mature business firms, and 48th for new firms. See Kansas reasonable: We’re number 47 (and 48).

Then, there’s our schools. Here’s what House Democratic Leader Paul Davis wrote on his Facebook page: “The state should not be investing $10 million taxpayer dollars into private schools (which basically means public money with no strings attached) while leaving our local public schools severely underfunded.”

I’d like to ask Rep. Davis if he’s really proud of the results of Kansas schools — or if he is aware of the statistics. Many in Kansas say that our schools are much better than Texas schools, and that we don’t want our schools to fall to the level of Texas schools. If we look at National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores, we see that when reporting scores for all students, Kansas has higher scores than Texas, except for one tie.

But when we look at subgroups, all the sudden the picture is different: Texas has the best scores in all cases, except for two ties. Similar patterns exist for previous years. See Kansas school test scores, in perspective for tables.

kansas-texas-naep-test-scores-2011

Kansas students, in the aggregate, score better than Texas students, that is true. It is also true that Texas white students score better than Kansas white students, Texas black students score better than Kansas black students, and Texas Hispanic students score better than or tie Kansas Hispanic students. The same pattern holds true for other ethnic subgroups.

Comparing Kansas to the nation: Kansas does better than the national average in all cases. But if we look at the data separated by racial/ethnic subgroups, something different becomes apparent: Kansas lags behind the national average in some of these areas. See Kansas school supporters should look more closely for tables.

By the way, Texas spends less on schools than does Kansas. In 2009, Kansas spent $11,427 per student. Texas spent $11,085, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Considering only spending categorized by NCES to be for instruction purposes, it was Kansas at $6,162 per student and Texas at $5,138.

Texas also has larger class sizes, or more precisely, a higher pupil/teacher ratio. Texas has 14.56 students for each teacher. In Kansas, it’s 13.67. (2009 figures, according to NCES.)

Do these facts matter to Kansas progressives who want to maintain high levels of taxation and government spending? We first must ask if they are even aware of the facts. Sadly, I suspect they don’t want to know.

1 Comment

  • Greg Thomas -

    Bob…Great article. Being an ex teacher, I really like the way you drill down into the education stats. I for one supporter the governor in his efforts…Greg

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