Home > Uncategorized > Kansas Legislature Hires Consultants from Texas to Study Funding Issues… The Name of the Texas A & M Grad School is a Tip Off on How This Will End

Kansas Legislature Hires Consultants from Texas to Study Funding Issues… The Name of the Texas A & M Grad School is a Tip Off on How This Will End

February 25, 2018

Here’s the key paragraphs from an article by Tim Carpenter published yesterday in CJOnline.com, the Topeka Capitol Journal’s online news outlet:

The Republican-led Kansas Legislature hired advisers from outside the Capitol’s bubble to execute a fresh accounting of the cost for educating the state’s 490,000 students. It follows the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling in October that a $300 million increase in state aid approved by the 2017 Legislature fell short of equity and adequacy mandates in the constitution. That increase spread among the state’s 286 districts was financed with a controversial income tax hike.

Lori Taylor, a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, told education committee members why previous comprehensive cost studies were flawed or outdated. The two most influential evaluations applicable to Kansas were published in 2006 and 2011.

“Things have changed enormously in this state since the time frame in which these prior analyses were conducted,” Taylor said. “The expectations are different. The metrics are different. The economic environment, to a certain extent, is different. All of those changes cast doubt on the current applicability of the prior work.”

Taylor and Jason Willis, who works with the nonprofit WestEd consulting firm, said cornerstones of their study would be student needs, the price of labor, economies of scale and operational efficiencies. The data dive will shine light on school-by-school, student-by-student expenditures. The report will incorporate results from English and math test scores from the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 academic years.

A Republican led legislature is seeking a non-partisan analysis of their deficient financial plans from a professor in the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University? If I am a Democrat in Kansas I would be suspicious of this choice right off the bat… and my suspicions would be particularly aroused when I learned that the report will examining “…economies of scale and operational efficiencies” would be targeting school closures as a means of savings but omitting any analysis of transportation or food services whose funding shortfalls are compelling districts to use local revenue sources. And I’d be VERY concerned to learn that the analysis of “economies of scale and operational efficiencies” WILL include “… bloated reserve accounts maintained by school districts”, a concern of GOP legislators who believe those accounts are being built up by increases in STATE funding.

And if these elements of the study were not sufficient reason for concern, this issue raised by unnamed legislators should be:

During the three-hour meeting, Taylor was dismissive of criticism related to excerpts from Texas court opinions in a 2005 school finance case that indicated her research on behalf of the Texas Legislature was “not credible” and “seriously flawed.”

“I have a deep experience with these policy issues,” said Taylor, a Salina native. “I am a very good choice to be the expert for this project.”
It sounds as if her “deep experience” was a study done 12 years ago, an interesting perspective given her assertion that studies completed within the past 12 years in Kansas were deemed to be “outdated”. The concluding paragraphs indicate where this study is headed:

The report on instructional and administrative costs of operating public schools in Kansas is due March 15. The Supreme Court set an April 30 deadline for the Legislature’s fix for constitutional shortcomings.

Attorneys for the plaintiff school districts in the case said the remedy could require an additional $600 million annually. Prior to resigning, Gov. Sam Brownback recommended the 2018 Legislature adopt a bill phaseing in a $600 million increase over five years.

House and Senate Democrats expressed frustration with the consultants’ presentation and speculated their report would be distorted to support arguments of some GOP legislative leaders that total education spending of $4 billion annually was constitutionally adequate.

“This will be the best study money can buy,” said Senate Minority Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, said the hearing set the table for the consultants’ low-ball cost recommendation. The conservative GOP leadership will use the report as leverage until centrist Republicans agree to a modest increase in state aid to schools rather than the full amount justified, he said.

“This is the seventh week of the session and we’ve done nothing on school finance,” said House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita.

This might be the 7th WEEK of the legislature, but it has been at least the 7th YEAR Kansas public schools have experienced underfunding at the state level and the 7th YEAR children have experienced cutbacks in their programs… except in the most affluent districts in the state where local property taxes can offset the cuts in state aid.

This is a cautionary tale for every state in the union because the “Kansas model” of trickle down economics is being used at the national level and the laws that led to this funding model are taken from the ALEC playbook being used in every state in the union. As a result, we’re NOT getting the best schools money can buy in every district in America… we’re getting them only in themes affluent districts in our nation…

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