Wichita school board accounting

In 2005, Wichita School Board Member Chip Gramke was asked this question, followed by his answer:

[Question:] It seems as though we keep putting more and more money into education, yet it seems we are getting less and less out of it.

[Answer:] Again I will only speak for Wichita Public Schools to answer this question. If we have been putting “more money” into USD 259, I haven’t seen the check yet. As a matter of fact, Wichita Public Schools has been in the position of cutting our budget for the last 4 years. This school year is the first time in years we have received additional money.

(Source: Wichita NewsBrief, July 26, 2005, at http://www.wichitanewsbrief.com/newsletter.aspx?id=341)

Mr. Gramke’s assertion that USD 259 spending is not increasing, and that the district has been cutting its budget for the four years before 2005 doesn’t square with the facts as I see them. A document at the Kansas State Department of Education (http://www3.ksde.org/leaf/data_warehouse/total_expenditures/d0259exp.pdf) gives some facts about spending in USD 259. Excerpts follow:

  Year      Total Spending  Per Student
1993-1994    257,158,097      5,741
1994-1995    257,211,100      5,882
1995-1996    268,040,066      6,195
1996-1997    276,955,477      6,297
1997-1998    292,651,092      6,615
1998-1999    304,491,202      6,778
1999-2000    335,950,608      7,456
2000-2001    342,754,035      7,532
2001-2002    383,680,515      8,393
2002-2003    391,651,615      8,604
2003-2004    421,616,834      9,278
2004-2005    427,914,830      9,457

For each year, the number of dollars spent increases, and so does the spending per student. Some years the increase is less than the rate of inflation, but in other years it is greater. From 1993 to 2004 the Consumer Price Index, a measure of general inflation, rose by 31%. For the same time period, total spending by USD 259 grew by 66%, and per student spending grew by 65%.

Mr. Gramke’s biography on the USD 259 BOE website lists his profession as “Accountant.” Perhaps there is some special accountant-developed method that one can use to interpret these spending figures that will make his claim of budget-cutting true. If so, I would be glad to hear of it.

Otherwise, I believe we have to seriously question the credibility of our education leaders when considering matters of finance.

This problem is not confined to our local board of education. At the state level, Kansas Families United for Public Education (KFUPE) has claimed “State aid has failed to keep pace with inflation.” This was shown to be false in the article Kansas Families United for Public Education (KFUPE) on State Aid to Schools.

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