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Raising taxes for Kansas schools is not the answer
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Dear Editor,
The next time a candidate for state legislature promises to “fully fund education” ask them how much more they will raise your taxes.
Since the 2005 Kansas Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to increase K-12 spending by more than $1 billion in the Montoy case, school districts used our tax dollars to hire over 9,000 new employees. Only 40% were teachers. The rest were administrators and non-instructional staff. Meanwhile, administrator salaries have continued to increase while teacher salaries have remained flat.
Already, 51% of our state budget goes to local school boards. This leaves very little for any other essential programs.
Kansas is 4th in the nation on the amount of state taxes going to local schools. So, how much is enough?
According to the National Association of School Budget Officers, in FY2012, Texas spent 41.7%, Colorado spent 39.1%, Missouri spent 34.9%, Nebraska spent 30.4% and Oklahoma spent 30.4%.
Alabama spent 55.1% of their state taxes on K-12 schools, yet has some of the lowest test scores in America. However, Massachusetts spent 18.3% and consistently has the highest student achievement scores.
Clearly, the amount of money a state legislature appropriates has little to do with the level of their students’ academic achievement. In Kansas, some districts spend as little as $8,000 per student while other districts spend as high as $27,000 per student to get the same results.
The truth is that Kansas K-12 school districts have doubled from $3 billion to $6.4 billion the amount of our local, state and federal tax dollars spent since 1998 to teach the same number of students. Yet national NAEP and ACT test scores continue to show that only 1-in-3 Kansas students is actually proficient enough to succeed in college or start a career.
In addition, for most people, the property taxes they pay goes primarily for local schools. Yet, the total amount spent by their district administrators keeps going up.
For too long, false and misleading information from the State Department of Education, Kansas Association of School Boards and paid “school lobbyists” have tried to convince the public and Supreme Court that K-12 schools are UNDERFUNDED. Yet three times since 2001, state education staff deliberately lowered the percent correct answers to pass the state tests. Then they falsely claimed that nearly 90% of Kansas students were supposedly “proficient”.
In 2015, new state tests were given with more honest passing percentages. The results were “dismal.” But, these are the same low scores for Kansas students reported by national NAEP & ACT tests for nearly 20 years. So why is anyone surprised or claiming that a drop in state test scores is due to not receiving enough money for school administrators to spend??
Obviously, raising our taxes by another $800 million dollars to get the same poor results is not the answer to making sure that Kansas kids are prepared for college or career!!
Dr. Walt Chappell, Former Member
Kansas State Board of Education