If public schools across the nation were given report cards, they might come from the Education Week Research Center. Ed Week’s Quality Counts 2018 report gives Kansas a C, with an overall grade of 73.3 percent. The national score is also a C, with a grade of 74.5 percent. Border states Nebraska and Colorado also earned C’s although their grades were higher than Kansas at 76.3 and 73.9 percent, respectively. We scored higher than Missouri (C-) and Oklahoma (D+).
In case you’re wondering where the overachievers are, there were none. The highest grade was a B+ for Massachusetts, and other states in the Northeast earned B’s.
The trouble with an aggregate passing grade is that it can mask problem areas. That’s why schools with B honor rolls require students to maintain a 3.0 grade point average with no D’s or F’s. Indeed, a closer look at the Kansas report card shows the state earned a B- in Chance for Success, a C in School Finance and a D in K-12 Achievement.
“Among states that received the lowest grades in the latest Quality Counts report, the Education Week Research Center identified several common challenges,” writes Education Week Assistant Editor Andrew Ujifusa. “These include relatively high rates of children and parents living in poverty, limited opportunities for early learning, and struggles with producing strong academic outcomes. These states also have (and provide) limited resources and funding to their K-12 systems.”
At this point, Kansans are hoping the Legislature found the “right” formula to meet the constitutional mandate of adequate and equitable funding for education. But all we know is the final sum lawmakers chose — we haven’t actually seen how they arrived at the solution. We know there was an $80 million mistake which supposedly can be fixed, so apparently, someone is checking the Legislature’s homework.
Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), has warned that the state can’t afford the bill that adds $500 million to the education budget over the next five years.
“I’m here for the people that are footing the bills. My caucus has seen the runs and they know what voting for this bill means. It means unpredictability, it means everything else gets starved for K-12,” Wagle said.
But starving “everything else” would be a huge mistake. Poverty and other factors have an effect on how well kids do in school, so it would be a false economy to invest more in education but then reduce spending for others programs that our state needs.