Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gallup Poll shows divided views on education

A new poll from the Gallup organization shows the highest level of public dissatisfaction and the biggest split in education opinions by party affiliation in 16 years of polling. Yet more than three-fourths of parents remain satisfied with their oldest child’s education.

Parents, who have first hand knowledge of their child’s school, have generally been highly satisfied with the results, with parental satisfaction dropping below 70 percent only twice since 1999.

Yet broader public response, including non-parents as well as parents, is much less favorable,  with less than 50 percent of all respondents satisfied with U.S. education every year except 2004. This year, overall satisfaction with education fell to 43 percent, the lowest level since 2010.

Other surveys find similar differences: parents rate schools higher than the general public, and people rate their own community schools higher than schools nationally.

The survey does not distinguish between attitudes about public schools versus other forms of schooling. Support materials released by Gallup show that over time, between 80 and 85 percent of respondents say their children are in public schools, around 10 percent are in private schools, and the remainder split between parochial schools and home schools.

Finally, the survey shows that recent declining satisfaction with education has been largely driven by Republicans. Although attitudes by party have generally been fairly close, over the past two years satisfaction by Republicans has dropped from 48 percent to 32 percent, while satisfaction by Democrats has increased from 48 percent to 53 percent.

That means Republican satisfaction with education is at the lowest point recorded, while Democrat satisfaction is tied for second-highest. As with so many other social issues, this survey shows a deep partisan divide as the country prepares for a general election.

How might these attitudes affect public policies for education in a heavily Republican state like Kansas? Republicans at the national level and some legislative leaders in Kansas have advocated giving parents more choices in education by funding private schools or public charter schools outside of local school board control. The concept, in other words, is either taking students out of what is seen as a failing system or trusting competition to improve it.

However, surveys like the new Gallup results generally show that parents - who would have to make the choice - are much more satisfied with their children’s education than the public as a whole.

At the same time, being “dissatisfied” doesn’t necessarily mean opposition to the public school system itself. Many observers of the August primary in Kansas believe that voters were “dissatisfied” with K-12 funding levels or other state policies, not local school programs and policies - and that led to the defeat of a number of incumbent Republicans who supported those state policies.

Here are KASB reports on the Republican and Democratic party platforms for education adopted their national conventions this summer.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

State education aid up 8% under Governor Brownback?

In a recent television interview, Gov. Sam Brownback expressed frustration that many Kansas voters seem to believe state school funding had been cut, when in fact, the governor said, funding has risen 8 percent.

To check the governor’s statement and explore why school supporters (and the public) may believe school funding has been cut, KASB used data from the governor’s budget reports, including the latest “Comparison Report” showing the final action of the 2016 Legislature for Fiscal Year 2016, which ended June 20, and the current Fiscal Year 2017.

As the table below shows, line 1, the total of major state aid categories, increased from nearly $3.8 billion in 2011, the first year of Brownback’s administration, to $4.09 billion approved for next year: $295 million or 7.8 percent. That’s very close to the governor’s 8 percent number.

However, note on line 14 that the inflation rate, based on the consumer price index shown on line 13, increased by 8.9 percent  (using the Kansas consensus revenue estimate for inflation in FY 2017). Therefore, an 8 percent increase did not even keep up with the general inflation rate.

More importantly from a school operating viewpoint, lines 3 through 7 show state aid programs that cannot be used for general operating expenditures. These include KPERS aid to school districts, which increased $73.4 million between 2011 and 2017; capital outlay state aid, which increased $50.8 million; bond and interest state aid, which increased $84.9 million; and a portion of local option budget state which districts had to use for property tax relief because the LOB was capped ($62 milion).

When these funds are subtracted, state aid available for actual operating expenses, such as teacher salaries and benefits, utilities and student services, increased $23.4 million, or less than 1 percent, compared to an inflation rate of nearly 9 percent during Governor Brownback’s administration.

When net operating aid is divided by the unweighted enrollment (line 10), the amount per pupil (line 11) actually fell by 0.7 percent.

Brownback is correct that total state aid has increased by about 8 percent under his watch, but - as he seemed to acknowledged in the same interview - most of that increase went to programs that cannot be used for regular school district operating costs.

As a result, state operating aid has fallen far behind the rate of inflation, which means school districts have had to cut programs, positions or salaries in order to keep with fixed costs and rising enrollment. That explains why school leaders, patrons and other voters perceive that education funding has been cut.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New report shows shift to college jobs and earnings; Kansas schools respond

A new national report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (Georgetown Center) found that 99 percent of job growth in the United States since the Great Recession has gone to workers with at least some postsecondary education.

Kansas Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson told the State Board of Education this week the study underscores the importance boosting both high school graduation and college participation, two outcomes of the board’s “Kansans Can” initiative.

The report, “America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” says that out of the 11.6 million jobs created in the post-recession economy, 11.5 million went to workers with more than a high school education and 8.4 million went to workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher, while employment of workers with a high school diploma or less only grew by 80,000 jobs in the recovery.

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“The modern economy continues to leave Americans without a college education behind,” said Anthony P. Carnevale, director of the Georgetown Center and lead author of the report. In the report, “college” refers to any postsecondary education, including technical certificates and two-year associate’s degree.

Kansas Association of School Boards spokesperson Mark Tallman says Kansas schools have been responding to this trend. “According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 60.1 percent of Kansans aged 18-24 have some college education, including any postsecondary hours, a technical education certificate, an associate’s degree or higher; up from 51.9 percent in 2005. In 2014 Kansas ranked seventh in the nation in percentage of 18-24-year-olds participating in postsecondary education.”

The percent of 18-24-year-old Kansans who have completed a four year degree rose from 9.7 percent in 2005 to 10.3 percent in 2014. “Keep in mind that only about one-third of Kansans in that six-year age group - those who are 23 and 24 years old - could earn a four-year degree within that time period,” said Tallman. “This means the percent of Kansas who could have earned a four-year degree and did so within six years of graduation rose from about 29 percent to over 34 percent. Kansas ranked 19th nationally in the percent of 18-24-year-olds with a four-year degree.”

However, even with these improvements, Tallman says Kansas will still struggle to meet previous projections from the Georgetown Center, which said by 2020 about 71 percent of Kansas jobs will require some training beyond high school and 35 percent will require a four-year degree or higher.

Improving the rates of high school graduation and postsecondary participation and completion has been a key focus of the Kansas State Board of Education’s “Kansans Can” initiative. A second focus has been working with each student to develop an individual plan of study based on career interests.

Commissioner Randy Watson noted that the Kansas State Board of Education was already deeply engaged in increasing the percent of students with some type of post secondary credential. “The State Board of Education vision for education - ‘Kansas Will Lead the World in the Success of Each Student’, drives their belief that all students should be moving toward completing some type of education beyond high school.”

The recession and recovery have hastened a long-term change in the composition of the American workforce. In 2016, for the first time, workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher are a larger proportion of the workforce (36 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less (34 percent). Workers with more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree, who are typically employed in middle-skill occupations, comprise the remaining 30 percent of the workforce.

Nationally, the report found that workers with at least some postsecondary education now make up 65 percent of the total employment, and works with a four-year degree now earn 57 percent of all wages.

KASB research of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 64 percent of Kansans over age 24 have some postsecondary education, but earn 73 percent of wages; and 32 percent of Kansans over 24 have a four-year degree and earn 44 percent of all wages in the state.

Occupational and industry shifts have been major drivers of change in the labor market. Production industries, such as manufacturing, construction and natural resources, shifted from employing nearly half of the workforce in 1947 to only 19 percent in 2016. On the other hand, industries that employ managerial and professional workers such as healthcare, business, financial, education and government services accounted for 28 percent of the workforce in 1947 and have grown to encompass 46 percent of the workforce today.

The largest occupational group in the American economy, routine office and administrative support jobs, lost 1.4 million jobs during the recession and recovery, primarily because of automation and the rise in digital information storage. These occupations were a primary source of jobs for workers with a high school diploma or less, in many cases, so the decline of these jobs has hit less-educated workers particularly hard.

Other key report findings include the following.

  • In the recovery, graduate degree holders gained 3.8 million jobs, bachelor's degree holders gained 4.6 million jobs, and Associate’s degree holders (and those with some college education) gained over 3 million jobs, compared to workers with a high school diploma or less, who added only 80,000 jobs.

  • About 5.8 million high-skill jobs in the recovery are going to workers with a B.A. or higher, whereas low skill jobs are the only area of growth for workers with a high school diploma or less.

  • Among industries, consulting and business services added the largest number of jobs in the recovery (2.5 million), while manufacturing added the second most (1.7 million). Manufacturing, however, still has 1 million fewer jobs than it did before the recession began. Construction added 834,000 jobs during recovery, but is still 1.6 million jobs short of its pre-recession employment — the largest gap among all industries.

  • Management added the largest number of jobs of any occupation since the recession began (1.6 million), while healthcare professional and technical occupations added the second most jobs (1.5 million).

“While it’s reassuring to see the economy back on track, we can’t ignore this tale of two countries with vastly different economic realities for those with and without a college education,” said Tamara Jayasundera, senior economist at the Georgetown Center and co-author of the report. “Fewer pathways to the middle class for those with less education will continue to reshape the labor market and American culture as we know it.”

The full report, “America’s Divided Recovery: College Haves and Have-Nots,” can be accessed at: