Substantial cuts in Kansas K-12 spending necessary, possible this year

Dr. Walt Chappell of Wichita is a newly-elected member of the Kansas State Board of Education. He has some realistic perspectives on school spending in Kansas. As the Kansas legislature struggles to close the gap in the budget, the public school spending lobby is resisting cuts.

Following is a letter Chappell sent to Kansas legislators. His cost reduction proposals follow the letter. Contact Dr. Chappell at chappellhq@chappell4ksboe.com or through his website Walt Chappell.

Substantial cuts in K-12 spending are both necessary and possible this year

With a billion dollar deficit in the General Fund, the Legislature is required by the State Constitution to balance the FY2010 budget. Since K-12 education is 51% of that budget, substantial savings must be found without cutting vital instructional programs. The question is — where to make these cuts in spending with the least impact on student learning and classroom teachers.

It’s all about making choices. The Federal Stimulus dollars are targeted to students who qualify for Title I, Title II and Special Ed. funding. So, many subjects and programs will be cut if the Legislature does not take action now to first make substantial savings in non-instructional expenses.

For example, Driver’s Education is being cut back yet traffic accidents are the main cause for death among teenagers. The Kansas School for the Deaf and the Kansas School for the Blind are being considered to be closed after nearly 100 years of service. Where will these deaf and blind students go to attend school? Local schools do not have the staff, specialized equipment or facilities to teach these students. Without proper instruction, these young people will need expensive tax supported services the rest of their lives. Likewise, fine arts, foreign language and vocational education courses are being cut or scaled back just when we need them most.

As a strong supporter of public education, I have proposed five specific legislative actions which will save nearly $500 million dollars per year. It is clear, that without substantial savings in K-12 education this legislative session — while Federal Stimulus dollars take up the slack — the hole to fill will be much bigger next year.

It is time to save the instructional programs our kids need to compete in a global economy. Merging the hundreds of small Kansas school districts, increasing the productivity of K-12 teachers and college faculty plus putting a hold on the use of State matching funds for new school construction projects will make sure we are making wise choices.

As an example, the passage of SB20 will save about $100 million per year and put a temporary hold on using State money for bonds sold after January 1, 2009. This is a realistic and practical way to help “stop the bleeding” of taxpayer dollars and save that money for more important education and State programs. It will also cause local districts to rethink which building projects they really need.

Let’s work together to find practical ways to reduce spending and save money for high priority programs. For me, cuts in instructional programs are not an option when major savings can first be achieved from reductions in educational administrative, transportation, operation and maintenance costs.

Businesses and families throughout Kansas and America are making these tough choices. I know that you are also thinking hard and want to do the right thing for Kansas students and families. So, please make substantial cuts in non-instructional programs now so that vital education programs and State services can continue.

(This is a Scribd document. Click on the rectangle at the right of the document’s title bar to get a full-screen view.)

Kansas Education Cost Reductions, March 2009

Dear Kansas Legislator, March 2, 2009 The voters elected you and me to “think outside the box” and make hard decisions. As a member of the Kansas State Board of Education, I have given a lot of thought to the following powerful proposals which will save millions of dollars in education costs during FY2010 and years to come without reducing the quality of instruction for Kansas students. The $563 million in Federal Stimulus funds for K-12 education will help offset these reductions. But, I urge you to pass and implement these cost savings—this legislative session. 1) Define a Kansas School District as having 10,000 students or more. This will save $300 million per year by reorganizing and merging Kansas school districts. (Below are examples of cost savings from school superintendents Little and Kennedy.) 2) An Equal Day’s Pay for an Equal Day’s Work!! Since 80% of education costs are for personnel, to lower expenses and optimize the use of existing classrooms, the Legislature must first increase the productivity of K-12 teachers and Post-Secondary faculty. 3) Pass SB20 to halt State payments on school bonds not yet issued. Over $800 million in new bonds were voted last November and pitched by special interest contributors claiming the State has “free money” of 25% and more. There is NO FREE LUNCH!! 4) Save 3-4% of K-12 costs by passing Pay-to-Play for varsity sports. The extra costs for coaches, busses, insurance, referees, utilities and facilities needs to be spent on teaching employable skills to all students. Our graduates first need to qualify and compete for jobs. 5) Change the definition of At-Risk students and base the weighting in the school finance formula on the number of students actually having difficulty learning. 1) SAVE $300 MILLION THROUGH SCHOOL DISTRICT REORGANIZATION: The current State budget shortfall makes it necessary for each of us as leaders to “Do More With Less”. Government costs too much in Kansas because there are too many taxing units with the authority to increase taxes and fees rather than operate efficiently. This is especially true in Kansas K-12 school districts. Each year, over $300 million could be saved in Kansas by merging the 296 school districts into (+/- 40) administrative units of 10,000 students or more. Below are district enrollments for 2007 showing that currently only 7 districts in Kansas have over 10,000 students. There are 252 school districts or 85% which have less than 2,000 students. This is not cost-effective. Number of USDs by Enrollment Categories 201-399 400-1,999 2,000-9,999 70 152 37 Total 2006-2007 Enrollment 468,778 < 100 4 101-200 26 > 10,000 7 Total 296 In addition to saving $300 million per year in state general fund expenditures, by reorganizing districts, the tax base in each district will increase which will help equalize the educational opportunity for each Kansas student—no matter where they attend school. Increasing the tax base will also help districts raise local dollars through their LOB while lowering the amount of property tax paid by each taxpayer. Most of the savings will come from the elimination of duplicate transportation, administrative, operational and personnel costs. Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution gives the Legislature the responsibility and authority to reorganize school districts. It states: Constitution of the State of Kansas Article 6.–EDUCATION 1: Schools and related institutions and activities. The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools, educational institutions and related activities which may be organized and changed in such manner as may be provided by law. School district reorganization will establish “Regional Education Districts”. It is NOT about closing schools or eliminating Friday night football or basketball in hundreds of small Kansas towns. Instead, it is getting smart about how we use limited tax dollars by cutting millions of dollars of duplicate expenses. Rather than waste this $300 million each year, we must use these savings to teach our kids employable skills and help fund other vital government services. At the end of this letter is a brief description of the advantages and an example of how the savings are achieved as proposed to the Kansas Legislature by Superintendents Dr. Sharol Little from Manhattan and Mr. Ken Kennedy from Pratt in 2003. A simple definition of a school district added to the Omnibus Budget Bill can read: To receive State General Fund per pupil dollars, a school district in Kansas must enroll at least 10,000 students or more by September 20th, 2011. This amendment needs to be passed this legislative session. It puts in Statute two key factors—FTE student enrollment plus a date certain for local boards to work together to reorganize to set district boundaries within their regions. School Board elections for the new districts will follow. By acting now, small districts around the state will have time during FY2010 to work out compatible boundaries and merger details. To facilitate passage, I and others will be glad to testify during legislative committee hearings on how to implement this reorganization and save money. 2) INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY OF K-12 TEACHERS AND POST-SECONDARY FACULTY BY LEGISLATING A FAIR DAY’S WORK FOR A FAIR DAY’S PAY Since education costs are 80% for personnel, a significant way to reduce expenses is to increase productivity. This fact is true for both business and government agencies. Stated simply, it is A Full Day’s Work For A Full Day’s Pay!! Having Team Time, Teacher In-service, and Planning Periods when students are in school increases class size and leaves classrooms empty during the day. In some schools, as much as 1/3rd of each school day teachers are not teaching students. So, by inserting the following language into KSA 72-5413(l) and KSA 72-5417(3), local boards of education and post-secondary administrators will have statutory authority to lower costs, reduce student-teacher ratios and make optimum use of classroom space. Below is sample wording for such an amendment for K-12 school districts. To receive a full-time salary, each Kansas K-12 teacher must be in the school building not less than eight hours per day. While students are in the school building, each K-12 teacher must teach each class period. After the students leave the attendance center at the end of each school day, the teachers shall remain in the building to grade papers, hold parent-teacher conferences, collaborate with other teachers, attend in-service training, tutor students, sponsor after school clubs or supervise other activities such as intramural sports. The problem of low productivity is even more expensive at most post-secondary colleges and universities. Full time faculty are paid to teach 12 credit hours. But many large classes of Freshmen and Sophomore students are taught by graduate teaching assistants. So the number of students taught per semester by full time faculty is often 50 students or less. Furthermore, since most university and college classes are taught in the morning, this leaves faculty free during the afternoon for endless meetings, class preparation, and grading papers. The classrooms are empty most of the day so many faculty simply leave campus to do personal errands or go home. Below is sample wording to increase the productivity of post-secondary faculty. To receive a full time salary for teaching at a Kansas Post-secondary college or university, faculty must teach a minimum of 12 credit hours with at least 100 FTE students per academic semester. Graduate teaching assistants will only be paid to lead discussion groups, grade assignments and tests or prepare laboratories and classroom space for faculty but not to teach course content. Students and parents are paying ever increasing tuition to learn from experienced faculty. Kansas taxpayers and the State Legislature also expect faculty to teach. So, by assuring that faculty are actually teaching students, existing classrooms will be used more effectively plus students and taxpayers will receive full benefit from the faculty sharing their knowledge and experience. 3) ELIMINATE STATE PAYMENTS ON UNISSUED SCHOOL BONDS: As you know, SB20 bill has been introduced this session in the Senate Ways & Means Committee. It is very responsible, practical legislation. If passed, it will temporarily stop the use of State revenues to pay for new school bonds sold after January 1st, 2009. This bill will impact the over $800 million in new bonds approved by voters on November 4th, 2008. It will save Kansas taxpayers +/-$400 million over the life of the bonds if the school districts decide to sell these bonds between now and 2011. In most cases, it will also cause the local districts to set priorities and cut the fat out of their construction plans so that local property tax payers are not paying more than was on their ballot. Many of these building projects will not improve student achievement. For example, contributors in Wichita who supported the $370 million bond election were not parents or major employers—they were contractors and architects who wanted huge contracts funded by the taxpayers. This was pure greed. They “bought the election” by purchasing massive TV ads and over 10,000 yard signs. They also distributed thousands of 25% buttons with the implication that the State of Kansas had free money to help pay these bonds. In many small districts, the State’s portion would be 30% to 50% of the bonds sold. The State can no longer fund “wish lists” put together by small committees, sports busters, contractors and architects. These State tax dollars are needed elsewhere. 4) PAY-TO-PLAY FOR K-12 VARSITY SPORTS American students are facing stiff competition for jobs from well educated and less expensive labor in other countries. Yet, only 1% of our State General Fund budget in Kansas is spent on vocational education courses. This lack of vocational funding is also true for local school districts. By contrast, as much as 3-4% of K-12 expenses are for varsity athletics. Students taught in other countries do not have expensive uniforms, paid coaches, massive sports complexes in each school. They go to school to learn and their taxpayers expect and receive academic excellence. Is it more important to watch a few students chase another student down the field with a football or make sure that each K-12 student in Kansas graduates with employable skills? It is time for those parents, sport-boosters and want-to-be jocks to pay the extra cost of coaches, uniforms, insurance, referees, utilities such as lights and heat, new additions to gymnasiums and sports fields. Tax dollars should instead be spent to pay teachers, purchase equipment and build facilities which will actually train our high school graduates with skills to get jobs at a living wage. Only then will they be able to afford to feed themselves, pay for a place to live and start a family. By shifting funding priorities, more students will stay in school because they see the relevance of what they are learning, employers will not have the expense of teaching new employees what students could and should have learned in public school and our economy will become strong again. 5) CHANGE THE DEFINITION OF AN AT-RISK STUDENT Basing the At-Risk weighting in the School Finance Formula on whether a parent’s low income qualifies their child for free or reduced school lunch has nothing to do with that child’s ability to learn. This is an artificial measure which greatly pads the budgets of school districts with large numbers of low income families and deprives school districts which have families with higher incomes of the funds needed to keep low achieving students from dropping out before graduation. Obviously, this weighting in the formula is broken and must be changed. Once corrected, State General Fund tax dollars can be targeted to teach students who actually need extra resources. Furthermore, all school districts across the state will benefit based on criteria that are reflective of learning needs of potential drop-outs instead of the income level of each student’s parents. ******************* I am only one member of the Kansas State Board of Education. But I have 40 years of experience as a businessman, former science teacher, college and university faculty, administrator and education budget director. The proposals listed above are my own and have not been discussed by the State Board of Education. Therefore, please contact me directly for clarification of any questions and suggestions for wording on legislation. I have helped draft and pass legislation in 5 states and the US Congress, so I am willing to work with you to find solutions which work!! As you can see, these recommendations are not Republican or Democrat. Bi-partisan efforts now will save Kansas taxpayers millions of dollars which are needed to prepare students to compete for jobs in the 21st Century. As always, your leadership and support are appreciated as we work together to “Do More With Less”!!! Respectfully yours, Walt Chappell, Ph.D. – Member Kansas State Board of Education 3165 N. Porter, Wichita, KS 67204 (316)838-7900(P) / (316)838-7779(F) ChappellHQ@chappell4ksboe.com http://www.chappell4ksboe.com EXAMPLES OF KANSAS SCHOOL DISTRICT REORGANIZATION COST SAVINGS Item Districts School Boards Superintendents Deputy Superintendents Board Clerks Asst. Board Clerks Payrolls Payroll Clerks/Secretaries Asst. Payroll Clerks Central Administration Offices * Elementary Attendance Centers Total Students Total Area in Sq. Miles *** Total Instructors & Cert. Staff Total Administrators 3A & 4A High Schools ** 1A & 2A High Schools Current 17 17 17 2 17 0 17 17 0 17 20 7621 6846 722 65 4 13 Proposed 1 1 1 2 1 2 1 1 3 1 17 7621 6846 722 41 4 9 $250,000 Total Savings $60,000 $6,000 $83,653 $75,000 $30,000 $25,000 $4,000 $30,000 $25,000 $25,000 $190,000 Cost Each Savings $0 $96,000 $1,338,448 $0 $480,000 ($50,000) $64,000 $480,000 ($75,000) $400,000 $570,000 $0 $0 $0 $1,440,000 $0 $1,000,000 $5,743,448 * Savings estimate, avg of Hardtner, KS and Scott Co. — Hutchinson News, April 7, 03 ** Savings estimate from Supt. Jones at Mullinville — Hutchinson News, Jan., 8, 03 *** May change with school reconfiguration Not reflected are potential savings from other duplicated services such as food service and transportation. From a January, 2003 report entitled Regionalization Concept For Reorganization of Kansas School Districts prepared by Dr. Sharol Little, Superintendent, Manhattan-Ogden U.S.D. 383 and Mr. Kenneth Kennedy, Superintendent, Pratt U.S.D. 382 with input from Dr. Morris L. Reeves, Retired Associate Superintendent for Business Services and Dr. Gary Norris, Superintendent, Salina U.S.D. 305

1 Comment

  • Walt’s a thinker. A reasonable person should not and cannot discount his insights and recommendations. Although some require time to digest and understand.

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