A recent Facebook post by Stand Up Blue Valley is another good example of advocacy groups placing a higher priority on money than on student achievement. And true to form, they talk down to parents while consciously deceiving them to support higher taxes and more spending.
Under the pretense of explaining school funding, the Stand Up Blue Valley deceivers made at least two false claims and a few that are misleading while pushing voters to elect legislators who will raise taxes for more school spending.
Operating funds have considerable flexibility
Contrary to SUBV’s claim, some operating funds can be used for whatever purpose the board chooses and can be transferred to other funds. For example, $11 million in the Contingency Fund at the beginning of the 2020-2021 year is completely unrestricted.
There are also several ways to effectively use balances in funds with restrictions. If a district typically transfers money from the General Fund into funds with restrictions, the district could reduce the transfer and spend down the ending balance. That makes money available that would otherwise have been restricted.
Capital outlay funds can be used for some operating costs
Some of the $51.6 million in the Capital Outlay Fund can be used for specific operating costs. K.S.A. 72-53,116 says allows capital outlay funds for things like building repairs computer software, and performance uniforms. Rather than use operating funds for those purposes, the district can pay for them out of Capital Outlay and free up operating funds for other purposes.
Capital Outlay funds are not allocated to Blue Valley by the legislature as claimed. Only ‘poor’ districts receive supplemental state aid for Capital Outlay and Blue Valley is not one of them. The school board is solely responsible for $27.7 million in property tax charged this year, with an 8 mill assessment for every taxpayer.
Additional misdirection from Stand Up Blue Valley
The SUBV post makes several deceptive statements in addition to those that flat out not true.
Stand Up Blue Valley would have parents believe that fund restrictions leave the board with few options, but there are myriad choices the board can make to make better use of existing resources. By the way, the district budget this year is $17,546 per student; that’s a big pile of money to explore.
All decisions related to hiring and paying employees are made by the local school board. The Blue Valley board could, for example, choose to right-size management staffing and use the savings for any purpose. If USD 229 had the same student-to-manager ratio as neighboring Shawnee Mission, they would save about $7 million annually. There is no research that says more managers (superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals, directors, instruction coordinators and curriculum specialists) produces higher achievement, so why have extra managers if student achievement is the #1 priority?
Smaller class size is another misdirection. A large body of research shows students are better off in larger classes with an effective teacher than in smaller classes with an average teacher. So if student achievement is the #1 priority, it would make sense to reward effective teachers and dismiss ineffective teachers. But SUBV and their union allies are diametrically opposed to merit pay; they want more dues-paying union members.
These are just some examples of misleading and false claims in the Stand Up Blue Valley post pushing for more money.
Improving student achievement is clearly not their priority, as evidenced by their deafening silence on startlingly low achievement levels. Less than half of Blue Valley high school students are on track for college and career, and 21% are below grade level according to the Kansas Department of Education.
But just like the current Blue Valley school board, their focus is on the adults in the system and getting more money to spend.