Education Funding: When Will We Learn?

By Renee Erickson

One of the joys of being an educator is seeing that aha moment of understanding. I hope Kansans can have a moment of clarity on education funding.

K-12 funding is at an all-time high with increases every year since 2011 (KSDE). That information is readily available to anyone willing to know. For 2017, K-12 receives $4 billion from the state and another $2 billion federal and local.

The Court did not rule $4 billion wasn’t enough. It ruled on how a portion of the money is divided between districts. To understand equalization, read Rep. Rhoades’ April blog.

Kansas far outspends the U.S. average, but an unelected Court, selected by a small group of undisclosed lawyers, keeps threatening chaos and rewarding lawyers suing the state.

School lawsuits have been a huge money maker for the same lawyers for over a decade.

This latest shakedown wouldn’t even go to classrooms, but to lawyers and local municipalities, and not necessarily to poorer counties. Does that sound equitable?

Usual responses:

“Until you’ve taught in the classroom…” I have. For a combined 51 years, my husband and I have been public school teachers and principals.

“KPERS.” KSDE’s Dale Dennis is on record that KPERS has gone directly to schools since 2005. (He also acknowledged Special Ed funding has gone directly to schools for a decade.) Even excluding KPERS, education funding has increased.

“Inflation.” K-12 state funding has exceeded inflation by tens of millions. (KSDE; Consumer Price Index)

“Three-legged stool.” Before 2014, 20 mills of state aid were credited as local. State funding was even higher than recorded, and it still went up. Of the three legs, the state pays much more than the other two.

“BSAPP.” The old funding formula used Base State Aid Per Pupil multiplied by numerous weightings for total state funding. When people name drop BSAPP now, they fail to mention the weightings. Bottom line: state funding to K-12 has increased.

“Districts are spending more.” That’s true. But how hard is it to spend more? In 2010, K-12’s cash reserve was $705 million. By 2015, it was $853 million. Their savings grew. Did yours?

“Then, why does our district keep cutting teachers and programs?” Now, there’s a question. And why do they always cut where it hurts most?

As a seven-year school board member for USD 373 and principal in USD 259, I’ve seen many poor spending decisions. Recently, USD 373 circulated a letter on its spending, but failed to mention the $1 million health insurance mistake it made last year or the $3,000 vases (each) purchased years ago or the administrative building some dub the Taj Mahal.

USD 373’s superintendent ranks 45th in Kansas in overall pay, while its teachers rank 128th (KSDE).

Is that equitable?

Is it equitable teachers are told there’s no money for supplies, but USD 373 spent $75,000 this year on architects to develop vision/mission statements for new construction?

Is it equitable board members and district office administrators travel at taxpayer expense throughout the U.S. while cutting educational field trips for students?

Is it equitable superintendents and others use school time to push liberal politics? I know personally; conservatives are pressured to stay quiet.

I could go on, and I am willing to, until every open-minded Kansan gets it and has their own aha moment.

Our schools have become platforms for liberals to push their own agendas, and until parents and teachers wake up, a liberal Court and a few lawyers will keep pushing, even if the money doesn’t go to teachers or classrooms.

When will we learn?

True change will only occur when we focus on issues that directly impact student achievement and equality in our districts. I want to give students, parents and teachers a fresh, clear voice in Topeka.

That’s why I’m running for the Kansas State Senate, District 31.

If you have questions, contact me by email or through my Facebook page. I’d love for you to have your own aha moment.

Renee Erickson, candidate for Kansas State Senate, District 31