Monday, March 27, 2017

Let's Focus on the Future

In the school finance discussion, some of us old-timers tend to paraphrase Uncle Rico’s “back in ‘82” by saying, “back in ’92.”  So, I am going to go Uncle Rico on you with a memory of one of the discussion items from when the School District Equalization Act was passed.  Back in ’92 there was a concern that districts would not be able to spend responsibly anything over a 10% increase in state funding.  This was not true then and it is not true now.  In fact, our own Mark Tallman has created a list of things that KASB thinks need to be done for the sake of Kansas students.  He outlined it in his testimony on HB 2410.

Our list starts with something we all know both intuitively and empirically- the single most important factor in a student’s education is the quality of the teacher.  To staff schools at 2008 levels in Kansas, we need 1,000 additional teachers.  One. Thousand. Teachers. And in 2008 Kansas had fewer students, many of our districts have seen significant increases in enrollment.  One thousand teachers would allow Kansas to get class sizes back to a level that makes a difference for students and teachers.

If you follow Kansas education, you know that finding 1,000 teachers to fill those jobs will not be easy.  We have a teacher shortage now.  One reason we have a teacher shortage is we have slipped from a bad 37th to an abysmal 41st in national rankings for teacher salaries.  That’s right, we went from "worse to worser," to paraphrase a former student.  We get top ten results while paying our teachers bottom ten wages.  If we want to attract the best and brightest to teach Kansas students, we must be prepared to pay the people who make the most difference for kids.  Mark’s analysis includes inflationary increases for educators.

Another truism in education is that preschool makes a difference, especially for our at-risk students.  KASB suggests that we double the number of PreK teachers in Kansas. The data on the language gap in preschool children from impoverished homes is shocking.  Quality preschool is how we help close the 30-million-word vocabulary gap.

Our Kansas State Board of Education has set new goals for Kansas Education.  We want to be the best in the world.  If Kansas is to be a viable state, we must have the best workforce, and the best people in the world.  The first step is providing counselors and social workers at levels necessary to provide families and students the help they need to know how the want to contribute to society.  An additional 750 positions bring us to the minimum recommended levels.

The Kansas Supreme Court specifically mentioned that 25% of our students are below proficient levels in math and reading.  Targeted assistance for our students must continue and be enhanced.  It is no longer enough just to be proficient.  The Kansas State Board has set a goal for all students to be college and career ready.  At a minimum, interventions for those students will cost what the Governor’s own endorsed programs would.

If Kansas is to “Lead the world in the success of each student,” trying to figure out the minimum we can to get by just won’t do.  It will require keeping the best educators in the world, recruiting the best educators in the world, and giving the best educators in the world the tools and resources they need to succeed. 

Back in 82, Uncle Rico said “if Coach woulda put me in fourth quarter, we would've been state champions. No doubt.” We don’t want to be lamenting coulda, woulda, and shoulda with our most prized resource. In 2017, Kansas students need the resources and support of great educators to be world champions.

How would additional funding be used to help all students meet or exceed the Rose capacities, with a special focus on students not currently at grade level or at-risk of not completing school?
Inflationary adjustment for teacher salaries 2009 to 2016
Average teacher salary in 2009: $52,712 times inflation increase of 11.9% equals
$58,985 minus 2016 actual of $55,454 ($3,531) x 35,882 teachers                     $127 million

Comparable increase for all other district staff                                                         $127 million

Restore certified (mostly teacher) positions reduced since 2009;
1,000 times average teacher salary of $55,454                                                        $55.6 million

Restore non-certified positions reduced since 2009;
1,000 FTE positions times estimated salary of $35,000                                          $35.0 million

Double pre-K teachers to double preschool enrollment;
580 positions times average teacher salary of $55,454                                           $32.2 million

Increase school counselor and social worker positions (currently 1,500)
by 50 percent; 750 positions times average teacher salary of $55,454               $41.6 million

Provide intensive services to students below grade level in reading or math
(such as Reading Roadmap) at average cost of $1,000 per student
to all students below grade level (25% x 462,595 = 115,649)                               $115.7 million

Provide intensive services to students below college ready
at average cost of $1,000 per student (38% x 462,595 = $175.8)                        $175.8 million

Provide Jobs for America’s Grads services (or similar) at av cost of $1,230
for 40 percent of studs grades 9-12 based on income or other risk (56,000)       $68.8 million

Total targeted programs:                                                                                           $778.7 million

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