Let’s Focus on the Future

Let’s Focus on the Future

In the school finance discussion, some of us old-timers tend
to paraphrase Uncle Rico’s “back in ‘82” by saying, “back in ’92.”  So, I am going to go Uncle Rico on you with a
memory of one of the discussion items from when the School District
Equalization Act was passed.  Back in ’92
there was a concern that districts would not be able to spend responsibly
anything over a 10% increase in state funding. 
This was not true then and it is not true now.  In fact, our own Mark Tallman has created a
list of things that KASB thinks need to be done for the sake of Kansas students.  He outlined it in his testimony on HB 2410.
Our list starts with something we all know both intuitively and
empirically- the single most important factor in a student’s education is the
quality of the teacher.  To staff schools
at 2008 levels in Kansas, we need 1,000 additional teachers.  One. Thousand. Teachers. And in 2008 Kansas
had fewer students, many of our districts have seen significant increases in
enrollment.  One thousand teachers would
allow Kansas to get class sizes back to a level that makes a difference for
students and teachers.
If you follow Kansas education, you know that finding 1,000
teachers to fill those jobs will not be easy. 
We have a teacher shortage now. 
One reason we have a teacher shortage is we have slipped from a bad 37th
to an abysmal 41st in national rankings for teacher salaries.  That’s right, we went from “worse to
worser,” to paraphrase a former student. 
We get top ten results while paying our teachers bottom ten wages.  If we want to attract the best and brightest
to teach Kansas students, we must be prepared to pay the people who make the
most difference for kids.  Mark’s analysis
includes inflationary increases for educators.
Another truism in education is that preschool makes a
difference, especially for our at-risk students.  KASB suggests that we double the number of
PreK teachers in Kansas. The data on the language gap in preschool children
from impoverished homes is shocking.  Quality
preschool is how we help close the 30-million-word vocabulary gap.
Our Kansas State Board of Education has set new goals for
Kansas Education.  We want to be the best
in the world.  If Kansas is to be a
viable state, we must have the best workforce, and the best people in the
world.  The first step is providing counselors
and social workers at levels necessary to provide families and students the help
they need to know how the want to contribute to society.  An additional 750 positions bring us to the
minimum recommended levels.
The Kansas Supreme Court specifically mentioned that 25% of
our students are below proficient levels in math and reading.  Targeted assistance for our students must
continue and be enhanced.  It is no
longer enough just to be proficient.  The
Kansas State Board has set a goal for all students to be college and career
ready.  At a minimum, interventions for
those students will cost what the Governor’s own endorsed programs would.
If Kansas is to “Lead the world in the success of each
student,” trying to figure out the minimum we can to get by just won’t do.  It will require keeping the best educators in
the world, recruiting the best educators in the world, and giving the best
educators in the world the tools and resources they need to succeed. 
Back in 82, Uncle Rico said “if Coach
woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would’ve been state champions. No doubt.” We don’t want to be lamenting
coulda, woulda, and shoulda with our most prized resource. In 2017, Kansas
students need the resources and support of great educators to be world
champions.
How would additional funding be used to help all students
meet or exceed the Rose capacities, with a special focus on students not
currently at grade level or at-risk of not completing school?
Inflationary adjustment for teacher salaries 2009 to 2016
Average teacher salary in 2009: $52,712 times inflation increase of 11.9% equals
$58,985 minus 2016 actual of $55,454 ($3,531) x 35,882 teachers                     $127
million
Comparable increase for all other district staff                                                         $127
million
Restore certified (mostly teacher) positions reduced since
2009;
1,000 times average teacher salary of $55,454                                                        $55.6
million
Restore non-certified positions reduced since 2009;
1,000 FTE positions times estimated salary of $35,000                                          $35.0 million
Double pre-K teachers to double preschool enrollment;
580 positions times average teacher salary of $55,454                                           $32.2 million
Increase school counselor and social worker positions
(currently 1,500)
by 50 percent; 750 positions times average teacher salary of $55,454               $41.6 million
Provide intensive services to students below grade level in
reading or math
(such as Reading Roadmap) at average cost of $1,000 per student
to all students below grade level (25% x 462,595 = 115,649)                               $115.7
million
Provide intensive services to students below college ready
at average cost of $1,000 per student (38% x 462,595 = $175.8)                        $175.8
million
Provide Jobs for America’s Grads services (or similar)
at av cost of $1,230
for 40 percent of studs grades 9-12 based on income or other risk (56,000)       $68.8 million
Total targeted programs:                                                                                           $778.7 million