For the outfit that produced the “study” the answer is simple: Kansas lawmakers need to cough up between $1.7 and $2.1 billion “to meet heightened targets” for Kansas school kids.
Professor Lori L. Taylor, who headed up the study, is the director of the Mosbacher Institute for Trade, Economics and Public Policy at Texas A&M University.
Although she has an undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas, Taylor apparently no longer pays taxes in the Sunflower State and seems to have little regard for those who do. If compelled by the courts to honor the study’s funding requests, The State of Kansas will be forced to raise taxes even more or cut vital services.
Even without the added $2 billion, school districts have been spending money in ways that no private business ever would. Kansas Policy Institute reported earlier this school year that 79 Kansas public school districts added staff members despite losing student population.
The offending districts included the Hutchinson School District, one of the districts that recently spent money to sue the state for more money, and Kansas City, Kansas, which used public money to pay its lobbyist $134,689 last year.
Dave Trabert, President of Kansas Policy Institute, said public school enrollment declined for the last two years statewide while spending continued to rise.
“And of course, that flies in the face of we’re poor, broke and don’t have any money,” Dave Trabert said.
Kansas school districts also set a record for debt in the 2015-2016 school year. Debt service payments jumped 98 percent in the last 11 years, from $286 million in 2005 to $567 million in 2016. That includes $5.2 billion in new debt issued by 149 districts last year.
Had bond and interest state aid remained flat since 2005, school districts would have had $659 million more available for instruction in the last 10 years. “But we issue bonds like drunken sailors,” Trabert said.
Trabert is not alone in his dissent. Last month Eric Hanushek, the Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institute, gave some advice to Kansas lawmakers apparently not included in the Taylor study.
“What all the evidence suggests is very simply fact: How you spend money is more important than how much you spend,” said Hanushek. “If you don’t spend it efficiently, you don’t get results.”
Democrats in the Kansas legislature seem remarkably cavalier about the proposed spending increase. According to the Wichita Eagle, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, D-Wichita claims the study shows not only that more money for schools produces better outcomes, but also that Kansas has been underfunding its schools for years.
Said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, “It’s clear we’re going to have to come up with a large sum of money.”
One good place to start cutting expenses is in the production of studies. The Taylor study cost the state $200,000. The Sentinel is willing to do the next one for half that price and come back with a result does not bankrupt the taxpayer.