Thanks to some clever maneuvering by managing editor Jim McLean, the publicly funded Kansas News Service–a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio-–has emerged as the propaganda arm of the state’s liberal lawmakers, Democrat and Republican.
A one-time communications adviser to former Democratic Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and before that to Democratic Congressman Jim Slattery, McLean cannot seem to break the habit of writing press releases.
He and his reporters routinely betray the KNS’s allegedly non-partisan mission. Almost inevitably, when they are not critiquing conservatives and their policies, they are promoting liberals and their policies.
In a Wednesday article reporter Steve Bisaha upped his game from promoting to cheerleading. “School districts across Kansas are raising salaries, restoring cut positions and adding new jobs,” gushed Bisaha.
He continued, “That follows the phasing in of $500 million in additional school funding approved by the Kansas Legislature last spring under pressure from the Kansas Supreme Court to improve education funding.”
Bisaha cited a 2017 survey conducted by the Kansas State Department of Education that suggested a third of new funding would go to teacher salaries. He might have talked to the teachers in the Shawnee Mission School District before writing his article. Their bosses apparently did not get the memo.
According to the Kansas Policy Institute, relying on data from the district’s response to Open Records requests, Shawnee Mission teachers received just $467,000 of a $5.6 million payroll increase for the 2018 school year. In sum, pay for teachers increased by less than one half of one percent, but total pay given to non-teachers increased 8.1 percent.
Interim Superintendent Kenneth Southwick, for instance, got a raise nearly as large as some teachers’ entire salaries, $35,000, or more than 15 percent. The five–five?–assistant supers did not do badly either. Nor did the principals and assistant principals who saw their salaries increase on average more than 10 percent.
Shawnee Mission was not exceptional. USD 233 Olathe gave its top 10 administrators an average salary increase of 13 percent. The Kansas City, Kansas school district – USD 500 – increased spending on teachers by 1.2 percent during the 2018 school year while sending off its retiring super with a $458,000 final year bonanza.
If that were not contrary evidence enough, A KPI analysis of four large school district 2018 budgets–Wichita, Blue Valley, Geary County and Shawnee Mission–shows Instruction spending will increase at a much slower rate than spending for administration.
This information is all easily accessible. If the loyalty of the Kansas New Service was not to the education lobby but to the taxpaying public, its reporters might just seek it out.