July 17, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Voters Want School Accountability, Kansas Policy Institute Poll Reveals

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Kansas voters want schools to be held accountable for educational outcomes, a new poll reveals.

In the poll, commissioned by the Kansas Policy Institute, 70 percent of registered voters surveyed agreed that new school finance formula should reward districts for better performance and provide consequences for school buildings that don’t show measurable improvements in educational outcomes.

“The real crisis in education is not funding. It’s achievement,” Dave Trabert, president of KPI, said. “So we wanted to see what citizens thought about holding school districts accountable.”

Graphic courtesy of the Kansas Policy Institute.

In a March ruling, the Kansas Supreme Court Justices determined that block grants, used to fund schools for two years, were unconstitutional. The Court’s opinion specifically cited concerns that nearly half of African American students and a third of Hispanic students in Kansas public schools are not proficient in reading and math. A third of students who receive free and reduced lunches are also lagging.

In response, the 2017 Kansas Legislature adopted a new school funding mechanism. The Supreme Court ruled that formula unconstitutional in October and gave lawmakers an April 2018 deadline to submit a new formula for judicial review.

Overwhelmingly citizens agree–yes, they want effective and efficient government. Unfortunately, there isn’t the legislative will in the past to do that,” Trabert said.

A special interim committee of the Kansas House and Senate members met this week to examine potential solutions. They are scheduled to meet two more times before the legislature convenes for the 2018 session.

Trabert said he hopes lawmakers will use the poll’s results to inform a common sense solutions that ends ongoing school financing court battles and begins educating students.

“We believe the only way kids are going to get the education they deserve in Kansas is if we get the focus shifted away from inputs and put the focus on improving outcomes,” Trabert said. 

Those surveyed overwhelmingly agreed that the next school finance formula should hold schools accountable. Only 24 percent of those polled disagreed. Almost 80 percent of registered Republicans and 61 percent of registered Democrats want to see a funding mechanism that holds schools accountable as did 73 percent of urban voters, 66 percent of suburban voters and 71 percent of rural voters.

The poll also asked voters how the school funding standoff should conclude. A majority of Kansas voters think Kansas lawmakers should consider a constitutional amendment to end the school funding wars, but only 21 percent of those polled supported an amendment that would make the Kansas Legislature solely responsible for determining school funding levels. Instead, a majority said they’d prefer a constitutional amendment that provided a rules-based approach to funding.

“We seriously need to change the Constitution so that kids can actually get an education,” Trabert said. “Not a graduation certificate–that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They need to be able to get out of school and go on to a career. For most kids, that’s not the case these days.”

Surveyors questioned 512 registered voters. The poll carries a 4.4 margin of error.


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