Andover schools advocacy website not complete, accurate, or balanced

The Andover Parent Legislative Council has created a website and wiki in support of the Andover, Kansas public school system (USD 385). This site, titled Andover Parent Legislative Council, is described as helping Andover schools “through legislative advocacy.” Andover parents wishing for complete facts and a balanced approach will need to supplement their research with other reading.

As an example of the quality of information presented on this site, under the heading “Parent Resources for Understanding the Current Funding Crisis” one of the documents shows the trend of state funding for the Andover school system. The figures used to create the chart are incomplete and misleading. Some might even call the chart a lie.

Here’s the problem: The chart shows funding from the state for 2008 to be about $4,500 per pupil. (I’m reading off a chart here, so I’m estimating.)

The source or meaning of this number — the chart doesn’t say so — is probably base state aid per pupil. It’s the starting point of the Kansas school funding formula. School spending advocates like to focus solely on this number for two reasons: First, this number has been cut.

But mostly, school spending advocates like to focus on this number because it represents, in many cases, only about one-third of total spending on schools. It’s all part of a poor-mouthing campaign by school spending advocates who either don’t know the facts or are embarrassed by the full scope of spending on schools.

It’s not uncommon for the school spending lobby and its supporters to do what they can to hide the magnitude of spending on schools. They’ll also do their best to exaggerate the effects of any slowdown in the rapid rate at which spending has been increasing. This was demonstrated by Rep. Melody McCray-Miller at a recent legislative forum in Wichita. She disputed the total amount of spending by the Wichita school district. Wichita board of education member Lanora Nolan disputed these same figures at a Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting. Also see Wichita schools on the funding decrease.

Where the Andover chart misleads can be found by looking at this table provided by the Kansas State Department of Education: Andover USD 385. In this table, you can find that actual state funding per pupil for 2008-2009 was $6,683.

That’s a lot higher than what the chart claims. Now the Andover school system will probably say that the extra funding is for things like the burden of teaching low-income students or the many other ways that funding is “weighted.”

But the fact is that Andover received much more money from the state than shown on the chart. And that’s not all. The table also tells us that Andover schools received $4,266 per student from local revenue, plus $248 per student in federal funds, for a total of $11,197 per student. And that number has been rising at a pretty rapid rate in recent years.

There are other problems with the information this site presents. Under “Informative websites” we’d have to say that the selection is biased towards organizations that call for more school spending at any cost to the state. Two sites that provide balanced information — my site and Kansas Policy Institute — are missing.

Here’s another example: In answering a question about those who say that schools can tap into unused cash balances, the site states: “Like all businesses, schools have funds set aside to meet future obligations. These funds were held by districts in order to meet payment obligations including mandated special education payments, self-funded health insurance and worker’s compensation for districts, textbook funds to purchase/replace textbooks for upcoming year, and anticipated food service costs for the beginning of the year. Additionally, many districts carry cash balances in order to meet future bond and interest payments.”

This statement, however, doesn’t tell us whether the fund balances that schools have are too high, too low, or just right. The same mistake was made in an editorial written by Kansas school board member David Dennis, which is described as “insightful” on the Andover schools site. The article Kansas fund balances disputed despite evidence of their existence, benefit provides analysis of the problems with this editorial and the arguments that school spending advocates use.

13 Comments

  • School advocates need to be called out everytime a number is thrown out. They continue to poor-mouth and mislead. The public needs to question question question. Until we can have an honest and forthright debate additional funding needs to be halted.

  • Another selfish, hateful group that is all about themselves. You do not care about kids, disabled people, poor people and the list goes on and on. You are the ones spreading lies while education employees are losing jobs. Do you think that Boards of Education are cutting jobs across this state just for fun???? Good Grief. Get a life and care about someone besides yourself.

  • And the Koch Brothers continue trying to run the state with their checkbook. You people are puppets of the rich, selfish RIGHT.

  • Thank you to “anonymous” for those helpful arguments! Of course, if someone is not in favor of blindly raising taxes it must be because they don’t care about the welfare of the disadvantaged. How ridiculous! You obviously didn’t fully read the article or the first comment. They called for more facts and more questions–how awful! Taxes raised based on facts! No wonder you are upset–the facts don’t support your argument; if you had one!

  • True, school funding has increased from 2005 to 2009. That is because two studies commissioned by the Kansas state legislature determined funding was inadequate. One study, released in May 2002 concluded that Kansas needed to increase K-12 education spending by $853 million.
    Not liking the results of that study, and after increasing state education funding in 2005, the legislature directed its Legislative Division of Post Audit (LPA) to conduct a follow-up cost study. Released in January 2006, this study estimated the need for a school funding increase of at least $399 million beyond the increase enacted in 2005.
    A temporary increase in the sales tax will not do irreparable harm to the Kansas economy.

  • Mr. Trabert,
    I assume this is your web-site. I have a question. You state in your “blog” above “There are other problems with the information this site presents. Under “Informative websites” we’d have to say that the selection is biased towards organizations that call for more school spending at any cost to the state. Two sites that provide balanced information — my site and Kansas Policy Institute — are missing.”
    The idea that “your web-site” and KPI’s web-site are balanced is laughable. In addition to this, I do not see any unbiased links listed on your site.
    It is painfully obvious who you work for and that you do not want increased taxes. You also do not want the current tax exemptions analyzed. You simply do not want the schools to get anymore money. My first question is “why?” And I dso not want to hear the argument that increased taxes will kill new jobs. That is simply not true. Companies and their greed for profit margins kill new jobs. My second question is, “do you have any children in the public schools?”

  • Diane,

    If you check the ‘About’ button on this site, you will find that it is owned and operated by Bob Weeks, the author of this post.

    I don’t know who you think I work for, but it is Kansas Policy Institute. We are a non-profit organization that is supported by a broad group of individuals who share our belief in free markets.

    It’s trute that we advocate against unnecessary tax increases, which are always harmful to an economy. You may not wish to hear that tax increases cause job loss, but that is the truth. Taxpayers have finite resources, and when they are forced to spend more on taxes, they must spend less on goods, services or even jobs.

    Your claim that we don’t want state tax exemptions examined is simply wrong. Indeed, we have done extensive examinations of our own. We also advocate against selective exemptions, believing it to be better tax policy to have a broader base and lower rates. (The key here is lower rates for taxpayers, not higher taxes for government.)

    The short answer to your first question is that schools are receiving more money than they need to efficiently operate, as evidenced by several audits conducted by Legislative Post Audit and our own analysis. Any money spent unnecessarily, whether by schools or any government entity, is either money that must be taken from some other program or unnecessarily taken from taxpayers.

    Both of our children have graduated from public schools, but that bears no influence on my beliefs. I have always encouraged government to operate efficiently and honestly.

    These are very complicated isssues and I would be happy to discuss them with you personally. Let me know if you and Peter would like to get together sometime and go over the facts.

  • I would have to say that Diane Fox above is wrong. She says that a sales tax increase will not kill jobs, but that corporate greed for profits will.

    If prices go up at a store, people don’t know if they rose because of tax increases or a desire for more profits. All they know is that prices went up, and they can now afford to buy less.

  • Hi Dave,

    I stand corrected on the author of this web-site.
    You and I will never agree and that’s o.k. However, in regards to your statement above that “schools are receiving more money than they need to efficiently operate, as evidenced by several audits conducted by Legislative Post Audit and our own analysis.” That is not correct. No study done by the legislature has suggested spending less on schools. Secondly, I’m hopeful that you all will sit down with the school officials and learn a bit more about school funding and all of its nuances. And I accept your offer to sit down and discuss this personally. Peter, however, will probably not. Perhaps he and Marie could hit golf balls while we chat.

  • Sorry, Diane but Legislative Post Audit did indeed conduct a study in 2009 in which they made 80 recommendations of ways that schools could spend less money by operating more efficiently. That was the first of what was to be a 2-phase audit, with the second phase sending auditors into schools to show them how to save money. Unfortunately, many districts objected, saying they were too busy to learn how to save money, so phase 2 was made voluntary. A handful of districts volunteered for the audits. Two have been completed so far and both found significant savings.

    LPA also just competed another study showing that $129 million could be saved by consolidating extremely small districts. You can download and read each of these audits at http://www.accesskansas.org/srv-postaudit/start.do

    I do have a meeting scheduled with Jim Freeman later this month and look forward to exchanging information on the nuances of school financing and the many opportunites to operate schools more efficiently.

    I’m making a presentation at noon on March 25 at the next Andover Parents Council meeting at district headquarters. Hopefully you can make that meeting and we can spend some time aftward.

  • Those little audits were more about cuts than efficiencies. Cutting librarians, collapsing AP classes, cutting teachers and principals are not efficiencies in my mind. However, again, we will have to agree to disagree. I wish I could attend the March meeting but have a prior engagement.

  • Given that — at least for the Wichita school district — 80 percent of its costs are for personnel, efficiency usually means eliminating positions. Have you seen the huge increase in employee count in the Wichita district compared to student enrollment?

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