In last week’s newsletter, I discussed education a great deal, and it is an issue I will continue to focus on, as we simply must get our arms around this issue and craft a long term solution to school finance in Kansas, as well as our education system as a whole.
One sticking point over the last 20 years has been the term “suitable” in the State Constitution, with an ongoing debate about how to define it. Complicating that discussion has been the involvement of our courts, particularly in the 2005 Montoy decision and the most recent case in Shawnee District court.
Our constitutional system is set up where the people are sovereign and express their will through the ballot box by voting for their elected representatives in the legislature. It is those representatives that have the power of the purse and thus the authority to allocate funds.
E. Thomas McClanahan wrote a great piece about this very issue in this week’s Kansas City Star, which I encourage you to read by clicking here.
To quote him, “I found it amazing that a court could order lawmakers to emit $143 million more — exactly that amount, mind you — for schools, based on a subjective term like “suitable.” Here we are seven years later and the Kansas school-finance vortex still whirls.”
It is for this very reason that SCR 1608 has been introduced, a Constitutional Amendment which if adopted by the voters of Kansas, would make it clear that it is the legislature which should be the sole arbiter of allocating school funds in Kansas.
Courts ordering specific amounts of money to be spent makes finding solutions to our school finance formula almost impossible, so that is why this step needs to be taken. It’s time that we stop evaluating whether or not our children are receiving a valuable, effective education by one arbitrary number that does not reflect actual per-pupil spending. (Base State Aid Per Pupil or BSAPP)
There are special funding categories, called weightings that allocate money for school districts for areas like special education, transportation, free and reduced lunch, etc. that are not included in BSAPP figures. When all the weightings are included with the total amount of money the state spends on education, it amounts to more than $12,000 per pupil, according to the Kansas Department of Education.
We also need to look carefully at all the facts, including the rate of growth of administrative costs in relation to both students and teachers. In doing so, I encourage you to look at this chart.
This is also an issue that requires significant input from the public, as such comments can often be very insightful as to what the real problems are in our education system, what needs to be fixed, and where funding is an issue, but also where simply spending more money won’t address the problem.
I look forward to discussing this issue further in the future.