In a just world, the Kansas City Star editorial board would be humbly apologizing to gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach for a recent Star editorial on school funding.

The Star headline reads, provocatively enough, “Kobach, Kelly each say the other is lying about school funding. One of them is right.” Without saying so directly, the Star casts Kobach as the liar.

The Star quotes Kobach as saying, “State spending on K-12 education in Kansas has been increasing, but strangely we haven’t seen the results.”

The Star quotes Sen. Laura Kelly as saying, “The fact of the matter is, we have not been increasing funding for schools until this past year when we met the court mandate to do that.”

Say the Star editors after assessing each claim, “She’s right about that.” But “she” is not right. Kelly is wrong and the editors compound Kelly’s error by insinuating Kobach is a liar

The numbers absolutely support Kobach, not Laura Kelly, not the Star. There is no excuse for the Star editors not knowing this. Using figures easily accessed through the Kansas Department of Education, Kansas Policy Institute (KPI) President Dave Trabert lays out the inarguable facts.

The Star ignores the obvious to insinuate Kobach is a liar.

“School funding was $13,620 per-pupil in 2018, which is far above long-term inflation,” writes Trabert.  “If 1992 funding of $5,461 per-pupil had been increased for inflation, it would only have been $9,370 last year, putting 2018 actual funding 45 percent above inflation.”

Kelly’s claim that “we have not been increasing funding for schools until this past year” is delusional and easily refuted. 

Says Trabert, “Department of Education data clearly shows funding increased six of the last seven years, and five of those years set new funding records, including 2018.”

As to Kobach’s claim that “we haven’t seen the results,” referring here to academic improvement, the numbers support that claim as well. “School funding increased dramatically over the last 20 years and achievement is basically flat,” says Trabert. “Kansas students have a lower ACT score now than in 1998, and less than 30 percent of those taking the ACT are considered college-ready in English, Reading, Math and Science.”

For a more complete picture of school spending and academic results, the reader is invited to read the Kansas Policy Institute summary. KPI does not support or oppose candidates for public office, but it does expect the Star editors to make appropriate corrections when they are pointed out. For the record, KPI sent the corrected data to the Star two weeks ago and responded only when the Star did not.

The funding numbers and the school performance numbers are no mystery. “The Star clearly has a favorite in the race for Kansas governor,” says KPI’s Trabert, “but it shouldn’t distort the truth for any candidate’s benefit.”


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