Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Key Facts: How does Kansas school funding compare to other states?

According to national reports which use headcount enrollment, Kansas funding per pupil in 2013-14 (the most recent year available) was 29th among the 50 states, a drop from 24th in 2008. Because most Kansas school aid was frozen under the block grant system for 2016 and 2017, and most states have been increasing funding, this ranking is expected to continue to decline.

Kansas also spends less of the total income of the population on K-12 education. According to the same national report, Kansas spent $42.74 per $1,000 of personal income, ranking 33rd in the nation.

Funding per pupil is important because the nine states with highest overall achievement on 15 educational indicators all spend more per pupil than Kansas (KASB State Education Report Card). That’s true both in terms of actual dollars per pupil in 2014, and if per pupil spending is adjusted for state cost of living differences using the Regional Price Parity Index from U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In other words, Kansas educational performance is very high compared to other states, even though spending is below average. However, higher achieving states all spend more per pupil than Kansas.

Follow-up: Some say Kansas actually ranks as high as third or fourth in state funding for education. What is the conflict?

Kansas does rank high in the share of the state budget going to education. However, this doesn’t mean Kansas ranks high in total funding for education per pupil. Instead, it means Kansas has chosen to rely more on state aid and less on local revenues, which mostly come from property taxes. Most other states choose to have a different mix of funding for schools, but they also provide more total revenue. Another difference could be simple changes in accounting. The 20 mill statewide levy for school districts were previously considered a local revenues; now it is sent to the state and redistributed back to districts. That makes the “state” contribution higher, but provides no additional aid for districts.

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