The Secret Formula

The Secret Formula

So now we’ve come up with sixteen states to compare with Kansas – seven peer states, five aspiration states, and four higher impact states.  The next question is, what do we want to compare when looking at these states?

We should, of course, start with the variables that were used in the initial analysis.  But what else?  Since the focus right now in Kansas is on both the amount of funding and on how that funding is distributed, we should look at funding amounts (which were included in our initial analysis) and on differences in how money is allocated.

Luckily we can benefit from someone else’s efforts when it comes to the later.  Deborah A. Verstegen, a professor at the University of Nevada, surveyed each State Department of Education to gather information of their finance policies and programs in effect during the 2014-15 school year.  You can read more about the work she did here:

The following are the categories Verstegen presented in the survey, and Kansas’ responses on each:

District-Based Components

Density/Sparsity of Small Schools
It is a linear transition formula ranging from 100 students up to 1,622 students. The low enrollment weight of districts having enrollments of 100 or fewer is 1.014331 times the BSAPA per pupil. Each change of one pupil changes the low enrollment weight down or up inversely to the enrollment change. High enrollments, above 1,622 and over, are weighted an additional 0.03504 times the BSAPP.
Grade Level Differences
Declining Enrollment or Growth
A school district determines their enrollment by using the highest enrollment of current year, prior year, or a three-year average of the current year and the two prior years.
Capital Outlay and/or Debt Service
Districts may make a mill levy of up to 8 mills for capital projects and equipment. The state provides state aid to school districts based upon the amount of taxes levied. The state aid rate for each district is computed based on the assessed valuation per pupil of the district, with the lower valuation per pupil districts getting a higher state aid rate.
All districts transporting pupils living 2.5 miles or more from the school receive the state average cost per pupil based on a linear-density formula. The formula takes into account the per pupil cost of transportation, density of the district in terms of pupils transported, and square miles in the district.
Charter Schools
Charter schools are part of the local school district in Kansas. As such, charter schools are public schools and receive the same funding as traditional schools.

Student-Based Components

Special Education
State provides 80% of special education transportation costs and $27,900 in categorical aid per instructional unit. That amount is paid on all certificated education teachers, while paraprofessionals are paid .4 or $11,160 per full-time paraprofessional.
Low Income / Comp Ed / At-Risk
Additional funding is provided for at-risk students. The formula is based on the number of students qualifying for free meals with the additional weight set at 0.456. Additional funds are available for high density at-risk percentages. High Density Weighting: Districts in which their students on free meals exceed 35% of their total enrollment.
English Language Learner/Bilingual Education
State aid is weighted at 0.395 per eligible pupil, based on the full-time equivalency enrollment of bilingual students receiving services.
Gifted and Talented Education
Does not apply. Paid under the special education reimbursement schedule.
Career and Technical Education
Weighting determined by multiplying the FTE enrollment in vocational education programs by a factor of 0.5; resulting funds must be spent on vocational education.
Preschool Education
A limited number of 4-year old at-risk students are funded in the general fund formula at 0.5 full-time equivalency. Three and four year old children with an individualized education plan are funded at 0.5 full-time equivalency through the general fund formula.

Revenue and Expenditure Information

State Mandates Restricting Revenue or Expenditure Increases
The base state aid per pupil is set by the legislature and is the amount that establishes the spending authority of school districts. That amount is $3,852 for 2014-15.
Property Assessment Ratios Used/Legal Standards For Property Assessment
Residential property is assessed for tax purposes at 11.5% of full market value.
Measure of Local Ability To Support Schools
Under the formula, all school districts levy 20 mills on the assessed value per pupil for the general fund and the state makes up the difference between the budget authority and the 20 mills.
School District Budget and Tax Rate Procedures/Sources of Local Revenue
Supplemental General Fund (Local Option Budget or LOB) Districts can budget up to 30% of their general fund budget providing certain criteria are met (33% in 2014-15). Supplemental General State Aid for the LOB is based on funding that would be generated for the district at the 81.2% AVPP statewide and is equalized minus local taxes. See * 2014-15 Edition – School District and Quality Performance Act and Bond and Interest State Aid Program – Attachment I, LOB.
State Aid for Bond and Interest State aid is provided for bond issues based on the assessed valuation per pupil of the district. See * 2014-15 Edition – School District and Quality Performance Act and Bond and Interest State Aid Program.
State Aid for Capital Outlay Districts can levy up to 8 mills for capital outlay and the state aid rate for bonds (above) is multiplied by the dollars levied to determine the capital outlay state aid).
State Support for Nonpublic Schools
Drivers Education aid at $90 per pupil.

As can be imagined, each state differs greatly in terms of what components are included in their funding formulas, and how each of those components are addressed.  The state-by-state comparisons we do will include a listing of these categories and how each state addresses them.  

To examine the data more closely, use the following links: