Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Rose Tries to Defend His Love of Education and Inadvertently Admits It Boils Down to Lucrative Construction Contracts for His Friends
I doubt Steve Rose's latest column was a response to me calling into question his "love" of everything education, but it appears that way just the same. So let's dissect his argument that "ultraconservatives" want to gut education funding.
Claim 1: "First, inflation during these 10 years was 30 percent."
Truth: The inflation rate over the period of 2001 to 2011, the years Rose is speaking of was 27%. A three percent overstatement might not seem like a lot, but when you are talking about billions of dollars, it adds up quickly.
Per pupil spending in Kansas in 2001 was $7,052, in 2011 it was $12,283. That reflects an increase of 74%, nearly 3 times the rate of inflation over the same period . As Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook pointed out in her response to an AFP questionnaire, the state's funding increased 38% during the period, eleven percentage points more than the rate of inflation. The remaining increase to school funding came from increases to federal and local funding.
Claim 2: "Second, over half of the increased operating budgets went for special education and at-risk student support, as well as bilingual programs, vocational education and transportation."
Truth: Rose is playing with the school funding formula to try and make false claims about the impact of increased state funding for education.
By assigning the source of funding for these programs to the state, Rose and Kansas Association of School Boards are trying to lower the apparent impact of the increased state funding. In reality, these programs were funded by increases in federal education funding, not state funding. And as we have previously discussed, the increases in federal funding far exceeded the rate of inflation that Rose was so concerned with in his first claim.
Claim 3: "Third, the retirement fund increased from $82 million to $341 million, mostly because the Legislature increased the rate of contributions for school employees, due to past underfunding of KPERS (the retirement fund.)"
Truth: In fiscal year 2011 Kansas spent $2.3 billion on education. The amount of increase to KPERs accounts for just 11% of that funding.
If you recall from earlier, state funding for education increased more than 38% over the ten years ending in 2011. If you subtract the increased KPERs funding, it leaves an additional increase in funding of 27%, which just happens to equal the rate of inflation for that 10 year period. And I can't reiterate this enough, when local and federal funding is included, school funding has increased by 74% over the last decade.
Claim 4: "Fourth, expenditures for construction and improvements of school buildings almost doubled from $511 million to about $937 million, due to local bond issues that were passed by voters."
Truth: And there you have the real source of funding issues for schools, construction and improvements costs have increased by 83% from 2001 to 2011, outpacing the rate of total increased funding for schools.
This brings us full circle, Rose believes increases in state level education funding are essential not because it produces verifiable education outcomes, but because his buddies in the construction industry, the ones that get together every year to bequeath him various awards, are eating up too much of the schools' budgets, taking away from the available funds dedicated to achieving the core mission of educating Kansas children.
Instead of implementing, "aggressive, independent efficiency studies," that would, "identify best practices and find ways to achieve required outcomes at more efficient costs," Rose thinks schools should be given a blank check. For this, he labels fiscal conservatives as 'extreme' and 'radical'.