Appearing yesterday on KPTS Television’s Ask Your Legislator, a member of the Kansas House of Representatives spoke about K-12 school funding.
Jim Ward, a Democrat representing southeast Wichita, said school spending advocates are saying “We’re in a worse place that we were before the lawsuit, because now we have less money than we did in 2006.” He also mentioned that inflation means these dollars are worth less today than at that time.
Examining actual figures from the Kansas State Department of Education lets us investigate the reality underlying the claims of school spending advocates.
One of the things that school spending advocates do is to base their claims only on the funds that the State of Kansas provides, when that is just one of three government sources of funds.
Considering state aid only, for the 2005-2006 school year, the figure is $2.658 billion. For the 2009-2010 school year (estimated figures as of December 22, 2009), the figure is $2.858 billion. Per pupil, the figures are $6,006 and $6,292. These are increases.
Ward mentioned inflation, so I applied the consumer price index to these figures.
Considering state aid only, for the 2009-2010 school year (again estimated figures as of December 22, 2009), the inflation-adjusted figure is $2.602 billion. Per pupil, the figure is $5,729. These numbers are a little lower than the 2005-2006 figures.
But let’s not let Ward off the hook so easily. As mentioned, state aid is just part of overall school funding. When we look at all sources of funding, here are the numbers:
Considering all sources of funding, for the 2005-2006 school year, the figure is $4.689 billion. For the 2009-2010 school year (estimated figures as of December 22, 2009), the figure is $5.553 billion. Per pupil, the figures are $10,596 and $12,225. These are increases.
Adjusting for the consumer price index, for the 2009-2010 school year (again estimated figures as of December 22, 2009), the inflation-adjusted figure is $5.056 billion. Per pupil, the figure is $11,131. Both of these numbers are quite a bit higher than the 2005-2006 figures, about 5% for the per-pupil figure. (While that may not seem like much of an increase, remember that’s after adjusting for the effects of inflation.)
Ward mentioned school layoffs and budget cuts, asking “How far do we go? How big of class sizes are acceptable to the people of Kansas? How many public school teachers should we let go?”
This is one of the standard arguments of the school spending advocates: raise the specter of children lost in huge classes. Many people are starting to realize, however, that class size is not as important as other factors such as the personal characteristics of the teacher. This is something that the education bureaucracy is not willing to address.