Funding Facts: The Truth of Education Spending in Kansas
Every year – every session – the Kansas Legislature has a heated debate about school funding in Kansas. Below are some facts to consider when weighing the various sides in this important discussion.
Public Sector Employment is Very High in Kansas
It's important to understand when considering the overall debate over education spending to understand that public sector employment in Kansas is very high, particularly in rural county local government. Take a look at this map:
Local government employment is primarily local K-12 education employment. Counties that have over 35% employment in local government are outlined in blue. When one considers how many people it takes employed in the private sector to pay the taxes to pay for one public sector job, it is readily apparent the current financing structure is not sustainable. The Kansas Supreme Court’s decisions are growing this problem and making it considerably worse.
The Full Funding Picture
When considering the facts of this debate, one should look at the complete picture of funding for education, rather than one specific portion, in terms of how it impacts our state as well as each school district.
First, let's take a look at the state as a whole:
Notice how every year, except during the aftermath of the recession in 2008-2010, state spending on education continues to increase.
Now, let's take a look at Shawnee Mission:
Notice the significant reduced amount of local aid to schools that has been ordered by the courts, which has the effect of not allowing SMSD taxpayers to spend more tax dollars on their own schools – without increasing funding in other areas of Kansas first.
Let’s make it clear – Kansas has great schools, including right here in Shawnee and Lenexa, where Shawnee Mission Northwest was recently recognized as one of the top schools in the country. There is not one legislator or interest group leader who wants that to change.
However, every year since the infamous 1992 decision regarding school financing in Kansas, board members, administrators, union heads, and the media have all screamed very loudly to teachers, parents, and taxpayers in general that school funding was being cut, that conservative legislators were attempting to destroy education through deep funding cuts.
This false rhetoric has been used repeatedly to paint conservative legislators as “extreme” or “radical” despite the fact that over that same 19 year period, education spending has increased at a steady rate, even while in some districts, like Shawnee Mission, enrollment has gone down over that same period.
Though the Legislature has time after time largely acceded to the demands of school districts for more funding, proven by facts and figures which demonstrate the spike in spending, for the 19th consecutive year, we are hearing once again about how funding is too low – with some even claiming that we are spending at what are effectively 1992 levels.
This assertion is simply incorrect by a basic review of the facts. Below is a list of useful information regarding spending on education in Kansas:
Budget Information on Schools -- A fantastic page from the Kansas Department of Education with several links to relevant and important information on education spending in Kansas.
Total Expenditures by District - A list of all the school districts in Kansas, with each linking to a report on expenditures within their district.
Shawnee Mission School District Expenditures - A report on the history of expenditures in the Shawnee Mission School District.
Information on the Shawnee Mission School District - This link provides a list of important information on USD 512, including a list of administrators, a list of schools currently open, and a list of schools recently closed.
De Soto School District Expenditures -- Information on the history of expenditures within USD 232.
Statewide Education Expenditures - Information on the history of education expenditures statewide going back to 2005.
Special Session Compromise: Why I Voted No
Every year – every session – the Kansas Legislature has a heated debate about school funding in Kansas. In the special session of 2016, the Senate passed a revised school finance bill 39-1. I voted No. For an explanation of why, click here.