Latest reports show both short-term and long-term gains in Kansas education outcomes; positive impact on Kansas economy

Latest reports show both short-term and long-term gains in Kansas education outcomes; positive impact on Kansas economy

Summary: Many people ask what Kansans are getting for their spending on public education. Despite what you might hear about no change in educational outcomes, the latest data from the U.S. census shows that Kansas education levels HAVE improved, and the state is reaping economic benefits. (Link to American Community Survey)

Key Points

  • Short-term results: for Kansans aged 18-24 – the age group most recently in our public schools – the numbers who have completed high school, participated in postsecondary education and completed a four-year degree have increased more than the population increase.
  •  Long-term results: the percent of Kansans age 25 and over reaching higher educational levels have improved since 1990, especially in terms of postsecondary education. Education levels have been steadily increasing since the Census began reporting data in 940.
  • Because Kansans with higher educational attainment earn substantially more, the improved education levels since 1990 equal almost $7 billion in additional earnings in 2017, compared to what earnings would be at 1990 levels – more than the entire amount spent on K-12 education.
  • The same calculation also means increased education levels equals a reduction of nearly 40,000 Kansas in poverty, or 18.5%.

Conclusion: As funding has increased, school districts have invested in programs and staff that have helped more students complete high school, participate in postecondary education, and reach higher education levels. This, in turn, increases earnings and reduces poverty. That’s why K-12 funding an investment that returns long-term benefits greater than the cost.

In depth

The latest update from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey contains state estimates of educational levels, earning and poverty for 2017. The data shows Kansas educational levels have reached all-time high levels. This is important context for considering Kansas school funding, which has also increased over the long term.

First, short-term results. Consider Kansans aged 18-24 – the age group most recently in public schools. The numbers who have completed high school, participated in postsecondary education and completed a four-year degree have increased more than the population increase.

The number of Kansans in this age group increased by about 35,000 between 2005 and 2017. The number of young adults with any postsecondary participation, up to completion of a two-year degree, increased by 31,000 and those completing a four-year degree or more increased by over 5,000. The number of only a high school degree was almost unchanged, the number who had not completed high school dropped.

Next, long-term results. Since 1990, the percent of Kansans age 25 and over reaching higher educational levels has improved, especially in terms of postsecondary education. Kansans with at least a high school diploma increased from 8 in 10 to over 9 in 10.

Kansans with any postsecondary education, from a few credits to a one- or two-year degree or certificate, to four years and beyond, increased from less than one-half to almost two thirds, and those with a four-year or advance degree increased just over 20 percent to nearly 34 percent.

 

 

These continue long-term trends for almost 80 years. Census data has reported high school completion and four-year degree  completion since 1940. At that time, only bout about one-third of Kansans had completed high school and only five percent of Kansas had a four-year degree.

Next, consider the impact on this change on Kansas economic well-being. Because Kansans with higher educational attainment earn substantially more, the improved education levels since 1990 equal almost $7 billion in additional earnings, compared what earnings would be at 1990 levels – more than the entire amount spent on K-12 education.

 

 

The same calculation also means increased education levels equals a reduction of nearly 40,000 Kansas in poverty, or 18.5%.

 

 

 

Conclusion: This information is a measurement of how the Kansas public school system has been accomplishing its constitutional responsibility for intellectual, education, vocational and scientific improvement.

It also provides important context for school funding discussions. It is sometimes suggested that there has been not much change in Kansas educational outcomes, despite increased funding; with a further suggestion that additional funding will not result in improved outcomes.

In fact, as recent KASB posts have discussed, Kansas funding historically has increased more than inflation (except from 2010 through 2017). As funding increased, school districts have invested in programs and staff that have helped more students complete high school, participate in postecondary education, and reach higher education levels. This, in turn, increases earnings and reduces poverty.

Although K-12 funding has increased more than inflation, it has not increased at a faster rate than total personal income in the state. That’s why school leaders consider K-12 funding a classic example of an investment, not simply an expense: “purchase of goods that are not consumed today but are used in the future to create wealth.”

Improved educational outcomes create far more than economic benefits: preparing students to be participate in democratic institutions, improving health, understanding and appreciating cultural heritage and the arts, to cite some of state’s educational goals (Rose capacities) set by the Kansas Supreme Court and Legislature. But fundamentally, improving education has both a cost and pay-back in long-term economic benefits.