April 12, 2019
The legislature is on break. However, as a legislator I am continuing to work throughout the district and on unresolved issues. I have had the opportunity to visit businesses, schools, and with others. It helps me represent you in Topeka.
Education Funding – How much is Enough? It is a question that is impacting every Kansan, whether you’re an employee of a school, a taxpayer, a parent, a student, or a future student. Money being an indicator of priority, then Kansas has made education the number one priority for many years. According to Division of Budget Comparison Report in 2001, over 50% of State General Fund (SGF) went to education. In the 2019 Report, over 50% of the SGF goes for education.
The 2019 SGF budget for departments and agencies is $7.1 billion, over $3.5 billion of that money will be spent on K-12. That is only state aid. It does not include local and federal money spent on 286 school districts in Kansas. Total K-12 spending, state, federal, and local money is over $6 billion.
There have been attempts to require more of the K-12 funding to go to the classroom and teachers. However, there is never a majority of legislators who support this effort.
The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) website has reports available to give you more of an indication how the money is being spent and other topics are included. Interestingly, one of the reports shows the pupil-teacher ratio as 15.4 for the 2017-2018 school year. The calculation used for ratio was the total enrollment divided by total PK-12 teachers. PK-12 teachers includes practical arts/vocational teachers, kindergarten teachers, pre-kindergarten teachers, reading specialists/teachers, and all other teachers, calculated at a full-tine equivalency. https://datacentral.ksde.org/default.aspx
One expenditure that isn’t talked about much is what schools spend to lobby for more money. Legislative Post Audit has a limited scope report asking, “How Much Money Do a Small Sample of Counties, Cities, and School Districts Report to Us They Spent on Lobbyist or Associations with Lobbyists in 2017?” The three largest school districts, Wichita, Shawnee Mission, and Olathe schools reported spending around $1.4 million on lobbying in 2017. Taxpayer money spent to get more taxpayer money. (http://www.kslpa.org/media/files/reports/l-18-011.pdf Appendix C, page 15).
We can all agree that education is important. Kansas has made education the number one priority of the State and has been putting money toward that priority for years. What is our Return On Investment (ROI)? It’s time for a paradigm shift because the pattern of adding more money, no matter what amount, is never enough to satisfy the lawyers and the KS Supreme Court. Our objective should be based on student outcomes and the amount of money should be determined by the 165 legislators elected to do that job – not the Supreme Court.
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.