With the Nov. 4 election approaching, and much of the debate in state races dealing with school funding and related issues, the Kansas Association of School Boards is providing a daily review of position papers and research to help you wade through the rhetoric.

Please share with your constituents in the run-up to the election so that they might be able to make informed decisions about producing successful students, successful schools and successful Kansas communities.

KASB would like to share with our members stories from our local school boards about the challenges they are facing currently and expect to face in the coming year. Please email those stories, thoughts and anecdotes to Scott Rothschild at srothschild@kasb.org.

THE BOTTOM LINE ON
SCHOOL FINANCE


Facts about school funding: Up, down, flat or all of the above? 

— When adjusted for inflation, total K-12 revenue has been flat for the past five years, and remains below 2009 and 2010 levels.
— When measured against changes in the cost of living, funding for educational programs that can be spent on teachers, administrators and student support has declined by $500 million since 2009.
— Even the increases in these areas provided by the 2014 Legislature will be less than the projected rate of inflation.

Read the full report HERE.

WHY MORE MONEY IS NEEDED


Changing student population presents new challenges. 

— The number of school-aged children in Kansas living in poverty has increased. 
— The percentage of students requiring English Language Learner programs has almost doubled from 5.5 percent in 2005 to 10 percent in 2013.
— The percent of students on free or reduced meals has increased from 38.5 percent in 2005 to 49.6 percent in 2013.
— These changes in student demographics mean Kansas schools have more students who have difficulties reaching higher academic standards for success. They often require additional staff support and time.

Read the full report on poverty here and student changes here.

WE ARE LOSING GROUND TO OTHER STATES

The Center for Budget Policy and Priorities provides some insight on why classroom budgets are tight.

— National report says while the economy has recovered from the Great Recession, school funding has not.

— Kansas is spending 14.6 percent less per student now than before the recession to earn a tie with Wisconsin for the fifth deepest cut in the nation.

Read the KASB news release here and full report here.


FUNDING FUTURE IN JEOPARDY


Tax choices shape education funding; state budget facing projected shortfalls. 


Recent income tax cuts have lowered state education funding relative to Kansans' personal income.
— In fiscal year 2014, general revenue fund receipts fell $688 million from the previous year.
—Three months into FY 2015, revenue is below the FY 2014 level for the same period.
— State bonds have been downgraded.

Read the full report on taxes here, falling revenues here and state budget problems here.

DESPITE UNCERTAINTY, KANSAS SCHOOLS SCORE HIGH ACHIEVEMENT AT BELOW-AVERAGE COSTS


A leading national business group gives Kansas high marks in student outcomes; KASB report finds money matters; career technical education on the upswing. 

— Looking only at actual student outcomes, Kansas earns a B, tied with two other states at 11th in the nation, according to a business group’s report.
— Kansas spends below the national average per pupil but has student outcomes well above the national average.
— Additionally, post-secondary career technical education has seen significant growth in the past few years under a plan where Kansas high school students can qualify for free tuition in approved technical courses. 

Read the full report on education funding and student outcomes here and here and the Chamber report here

Here is a report from the Kansas Board of Regents on recent growth in career technical education.

THE QUARTER-MILLION DOLLAR CLASSROOM

Over the past few weeks, a high-dollar figure has re-emerged in the school finance debate that sounds like a lot, but is it?

— The $250,000 figure includes salaries for teachers, aides, textbooks, instructional supplies, buildings, equipment, maintenance, utilities, transportation, meals, support staff and administration.

— In addition, in Kansas public schools, there are thousands of high needs students being educated who require a multitude of highly trained specialists and wide range of specialized equipment.

— Finally, spending $250,000 per classroom is an investment that pays off much more as students with increased education levels earn more throughout their lifetimes.

Read a blog here about how schools educate children with special needs and an analysis here about the costs that go into classrooms.


THE ROAD AHEAD

A new set of guidelines for students and schools is on the horizon.

— The Kansas Supreme Court has stated funding provided for schools must be adequate to give students a reasonable chance to meet the Rose Capacities adopted by the Legislature.

— The impact of the new school finance bill will differ significantly from school district to school district.

Read an analysis of the Gannon court case and what it means for Kansas here and the impact of the current funding measure here.