Education

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy

Reestablishing a Fundamental Principle of Democracy Alan Cobb, Kansas Chamber President & CEO The words of a recent guest editorial in the Lawrence Journal-World about the Kansas Coalition for Fair Funding were not surprising. It was a continuation of the intellectually shallow, fact-short screed about taxes, school finance, and the Kansas budget. Certainly, reasonable people can disagree about these issues, but partisans rarely adhere to that theorem. And thus, I thought I was reading something from a partisan staffer. Alas, it was from a well-respected Wichita State University professor emeritus who I have known for decades. I’ve not always agreed…
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Tax benefits for education don’t increase education

Tax benefits for education don’t increase education

Here's evidence of a government program that, undoubtedly, was started with good intentions, but hasn't produced the intended results. Tax season ended last week. Taxpayers have filed for over $30 billion in credits and deductions for college expenses they paid in 2017. Evidence now clearly shows that these credits have zero effect on college attendance. The tax credits surely make those who get them better off, but they do nothing to increase education. If their intent is to increase schooling, they are a failure. Continue reading at The Brookings Institution article The tax benefits for education don’t increase education.
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NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations

NAEP results for 2017 available in interactive visualizations

When properly considered, Kansas often underperforms the nation in the most recent assessment of "The Nation's Report Card." The results for the 2017 administration of the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, were recently released. I've prepared interactive visualizations of some of the results. To access the visualizations, click on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). When considering NAEP results, it's important to consider subgroups, such as race/ethnicity and school lunch status, which is a proxy for poverty. It's important because states vary widely in the composition of subgroups. For example, consider an accompanying example from the visualization. We…
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Kansas and Iowa schools

Kansas and Iowa schools

Should Kansas schools aspire to be more like Iowa schools? The Kansas Association of School Boards lists Iowa as an "aspirational" state, that is, one that Kansas should consider a role model. I've gathered some data from both states. The United States Census Bureau collects data from the states as part of its Annual Survey of School System Finances program. [1. U.S. Census Bureau. Annual Survey of School System Finances. Available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/school-finances.html.] Data is available through fiscal year 2015. The National Education Association also gathers data. [2. National Education Association. Rankings of States and Estimates of School Statistics. Available…
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Colorado and Kansas schools

Colorado and Kansas schools

A writer claims that Colorado schools are well-funded, while Kansas schools are not. From the Wichita Eagle Opinion Line: The economy of our neighbor, Colorado, is growing fast. New residents cite that state’s well-funded schools as a key reason. Meanwhile in Kansas, Susan Wagle says our public schools don’t deserve an extra nickel of help from legislators." [1. Wichita Eagle, Opinion Line, March 29, 2018.] First, thinking like this ignores and disrespects the sacrifice Kansans make to fund our schools. This is a problem with government funding. The recipients rarely say "thank you" to those who provide the funding --…
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Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?

Dale Dennis, sage of Kansas school finance?

Is the state's leading expert on school funding truly knowledgeable, or is he untrustworthy? Recent events have found Kansas Department of Education’s Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis in the news regarding a possible mistake or misapplication of school funds. The school spending establishment has rushed to his rescue, with Kansas National Education Association, Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators of Kansas, Kansas School Superintendents Association, and American Federation of Teachers Kansas issuing a joint statement. Dale Dennis, says the statement, is "the best friend public education and the kids of Kansas have had." He is described as "the most…
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Wichita school student/teacher ratios

Wichita school student/teacher ratios

During years of purported budget cuts, what has been the trend of student/teacher ratios in the Wichita public school district? When discussing school funding, there is controversy over how spending should be measured. What funds are included? Is KPERS included? Should we adjust for enrollment and inflation? What about bond and interest funds and capital outlay? The largest expenditures of schools -- some 80 percent nationwide -- is personnel costs. In Kansas, and Wichita in particular, we're told that budget cuts are causing school class sizes to increase. When we look at numbers, we see that the USD 259, the…
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Wichita public school district transparency

Wichita public school district transparency

Transparency issues surrounding the Wichita public school district are in the news. There are steps that are easy to make, but the district resists. It's difficult to view a meeting of the Wichita school board. If you -- perhaps a taxpayer to USD 259 -- would like to watch a meeting of the board of USD 259, the Wichita public school district, your options are few. You can attend the meetings in person. Or, if you subscribe to certain cable television systems, you can view delayed repeats of the meetings. But that's it. Live and archived video of governmental meetings…
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Kansas school fund balances

Kansas school fund balances

Kansas school fund balances rose this year, in both absolute dollars and dollars per pupil. As Kansans debate school funding, as the Kansas Supreme Court orders more school spending, and as schools insist that spending has been slashed, a fact remains: Kansas schools don't spend all the money they've been given. Unspent fund balances grow in many years, and grew this year. Fund balances are necessary for cash flow management. They buffer the flows of receipts and expenditures. The issue is what levels of balances are necessary, and, more importantly, how the balances change over years. In Kansas, school districts…
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From Pachyderm: Wichita school board candidates

From Pachyderm: Wichita school board candidates

From the Wichita Pachyderm Club: A forum of candidates for Wichita school board. Recorded June 16, 2017. At the lectern is Pachyderm Board Member Todd Johnson who moderated the forum. The eight candidates in attendance were from left to right, Betty Arnold and Ben Blankley for District 1; Julie Hedrick and Trish Hileman for District 2; Mike Rodee for District 5; and Walt Chappell, Shirley Jefferson, and Ron Rosales for District 6. All of these candidates plus two candidates who could not attend today's forum will move forward to the November 7, 2017, General Election. In school district elections, all…
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