A Facebook post falsely claiming that operating spending per student was $9,098 in the 2020 school year is the latest fabrication from Stand Up Blue Valley (SUBV). The real number, according to the district’s budget report, was $11,839; this year, the district budgeted $13,116 per student in operating costs. With long-term spending included (Capital Improvements and Debt Service), total spending per student was $14,901 last year, and $17,546 was budgeted for the year ended June 30, 2021.
The phony number published by SUBV comes from a carefully worded claim on Blue Valley’s website, which is consciously designed to deceive readers. Every finance person knows that operating expense is total costs less long-term costs like debt service, interest expense, and capital expenditures; this distinction is also clearly reflected on budget reports designed by the Kansas Department of Education.
Blue Valley’s website, however, shows $9,098 under the heading of Annual Operating Expenditures (in large bold letters) but their description for the per-pupil amount is based on a definition of their own creation (in much smaller print).
USD 229 and Stand Up Blue Valley consciously deceive voters
Stand Up Blue Valley is essentially a lobbying arm of the district; it helps elect school board and legislative candidates who will advocate for higher taxes and more spending. And like district leadership and the school board, SUBV consciously deceives voters on school spending and student achievement.
Parents are shocked to learn that 21% of high school students are below grade level in math and English language arts, and less than half are on track for college and career. But that is the unfortunate truth according to the Kansas Department of Education.
This data was shared at an Overland Park Chamber of Commerce meeting a while ago. Those present were told the data indicates that students in Johnson County and all over Kansas were getting diplomas even though district officials knew some of them were below grade level. Shawnee Mission Superintendent Mike Fulton and Olathe Superintendent John Allison were in the room but said nothing in rebuttal. They and other superintendents know this to be true, but they hide that truth from parents.
Find the truth online
Parents and other voters can find the truth on student spending and student achievement from the Kansas Department of Education:
- Reports on expenditures, revenue, employment, teacher pay, cash reserve balances, and other subjects are available in KSDE’s Data Central website.
- Student achievement reports for each district are provided here.
Some of the KSDE data is hard to find and understand, so the Sentinel’s owner, Kansas Policy Institute, gathers data and posts it to KansasOpenGov.org. The school section has a wide variety of information, including a handy District Snapshot report that shows how each district’s spending, revenue, employment, and enrollment changed over the last 15 years in a one-page format.