Friday, June 16, 2017

After school finance and tax bills pass, where do we go from here?

The last five years have a seen a true revolution in Kansas politics - in the sense of moving in a circle. Voters have changed control of the Legislature twice. The Legislature passed major tax cuts which were subsequently reversed. A school finance formula was repealed in favor of block grants that froze school funding, then largely restored with additional funding. Which way will that wheel turn next?

A short political and economic history

In 2012, Gov. Sam Brownback and the more conservative Kansas House engineered a massive cut in state income tax rates that included an on-going reduction in future income tax rates to zero. Proponents of the tax cuts said they hoped it would stimulate the state economy and still allow a smaller but reasonable level of public services – K-12 and higher education, highways, health and welfare programs – and also begin to tackle the long-term unfunded liability of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System.

Later that year, conservative Republicans swept to power in the Kansas Senate. Gov. Brownback was re-elected – although by a much narrower margin than his first victory – in 2014. By that time, it was already becoming clear that the tax policy was not having its intended impact. Using the broadest measure of economic prosperity, personal income growth, Kansas has had one of the worst economies in the nation over recent years. Employment growth has also lagged.

The consequences have been years of state revenues not meeting projections, budgets cuts or spending freezes as costs continue to rise, credit downgrades, diverting funds from one purpose to another and a sales tax increase that has made Kansas' food sales tax the highest in the country. Two of the Governor’s self-identified top achievements were restoring healthy cash balances and getting KPERS back on target for full funding. The first has been completely reversed, and part of the Governor’s plan for the current crisis was again delaying KPERS payments. The governor narrowly pushed through the Legislature a “block grant” funding system for school districts that turned out to be a two-year funding freeze and was ruled unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court.

Apparently, voters in 2016 had had enough. The election significantly changed control of the Legislature to a point where a two-thirds majority of both houses overrode the governor and largely reversed the 2012 income tax cuts and subsequent tax changes – although the new income tax rates remain below 2012 levels. The Legislature also largely restored the previous school finance formula and added funding that in two years will raise operating budgets by more than $300 million, and restored much of the funding for KPERS (the largest group of KPERS employees work for school districts, so most of that funding goes to school districts and their employees). It remains to be seen whether this action and amount will satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.

And the filing deadline for the 2018 general election, when Kansans will choose a new governor and control of the Kansas House, is now less than one year away (June 1). That means voters will again have a chance to approve – or disapprove – the direction of the state.

What do voters want?

It seems logical to assume that voters will look back on the big decisions of the 2017 session and whatever comes next and ask two questions: First, is this what we voted for? Second, is it working?

If the election of Sam Brownback and the shift to a more conservative legislature in 2010 and 2012 was a vote for change (as was claimed), it was likely in reaction to the growing belief that the “system” just isn't working very well for average voters. Remember, the "average" voter in Kansas is a white, non-college educated Republican who probably sees his or her tax burden going up, in part because so many other taxpayers are getting special tax exemptions while the cost of services continue to rise. Many such Kansans have been experienced many years of slow income growth, shrinking job prospects and economically distressed communities.

I remember some months ago looking at the "crosstabs" of a national opinion poll that surveyed attitudes by a variety of population groups. What I found striking was the differences in whether respondents felt "hopeful," "angry," "worried" and other adjectives based on education level and income, which are increasingly closely aligned. The differences were not a matter of a few percentage points – there were 20, 30, 40-point gaps. Essentially, most people with higher income and education felt things were on the right track. Most of those with less education and lower incomes did not. More Americans and more Kansans fall into the second category.

When the 2012 Kansas income tax cuts were passed, many legislators acknowledged it was a gamble; the governor himself called it an "experiment" (as opponents have never allowed him to forget)  but the justification was that something – almost anything – needed to be done. Deep tax cuts, especially income tax cuts, has long been “something" orthodox conservatives have long supported.

The problem is while almost everyone is happy to pay less in taxes, most really do not seem want to cut the level of government services supported by those taxes. Gov. Brownback certainly didn't; his budgets have continually included provisions to raise other taxes or "pay -fors" to offset the income tax cuts; shifting funds from one budget area to another and using short-term or one-time solutions. The Legislature never approved deep spending cuts either. (Remember this past session, when some Legislative leaders were urging the Governor to make “allotments” – which he refused to do – and discussed across the board cuts that never materialized.)

In fact, most Kansans seem proud of their public schools and colleges and if anything, want to spend more; want their roads maintained and want poor, elderly and disabled Kansans to get needed assistance. Providing such services is pretty much what state government does (these programs much up almost the entire state budget), and if there is a lot of waste, fraud and abuse, it is hard to explain why six years of Gov. Brownback's conservative administration and conservative legislative oversight hasn't found it.

Therefore, the Brownback experiment ran into immediate problems. It didn't generate hoped-for economic results. Because the tax cuts were so skewed to upper income taxpayers and business owners – and other taxes were raised to compensate – most voters got very little tax relief or ended up paying more. As a result, most voters didn’t feel better off. Austere budgets for schools and other services were tight enough voters saw services decline, but not tight enough to avoid continuing budget deficits, downgraded credit and an on-going sense of “mismanagement” at best, and “crisis” at worst.

In 2016, Kansas voters collectively seemed to say: this isn't what we wanted. It's not working.

How will voters look back on 2017?

Opinion polls, news stories and other data indicate that Kansans wanted to "fix" the budget problem, protect school funding and address perceived inequities in the tax system. There is a good case the 2017 Legislature addressed each of these issues, but even the supporters of the tax bill called it a "first step."  What might voters see when they look back from the ballot box next year?

First, voters will see that the tax increase went far beyond repeal of the "LLC" exemption that many voters came to see as unfair. In fact, income tax rates will rise across the board, including on those in lower brackets; and other recent tax increases, like the higher rate on food, were left in place. As a result, most voters will likely see an increase in income tax withholding or their tax bill when paid.

Second, despite a return to more reliance on income taxes, Kansas continues to rely heavily on sales taxes. Sales tax collections have been lagging because spending has shifted from taxable purchases (goods bought from merchants in Kansas) to non-taxed purchases (medical costs, services and internet sales). The Legislature made some effort to address this issue, but the bulk of the tax bill was simply reversing the cuts in income tax. This means state tax collections will continue to grow very slowly.

Third, the Kansas economy continues to lag, in part because of agriculture and energy prices, and that will also slow tax revenue growth unless rates continue to be raised. In other words, the new tax bill will bring in a lot more money in the first year or two as it is phased in, but this will slow down. In fact, the tax bill is expected to bring in LESS money after the first two years because previously lowered exemptions and deductions are being restored. Furthermore, if state personal income growth is barely keeping up with inflation, tax revenues will do likewise unless further rate increases are passed.

Fourth, the trajectory of state spending IS projected to grow faster than inflation. One reason is the unfunded liability in the KPERS system, which requires more than "normal" funding growth to make up for past underfunding. A second reason is school finance. If school leaders are correct, making improvements in student performance, especially for low performing students, will require additional resources to add programs and personnel.

These trends were presented to the Legislature the night of the tax vote in a document showing that the state general fund will again be at a deficit within four years. Of course, the economic outlook could improve in the next year or two, but it could also get worse.

In other words, it is entirely possible that after (yet another) "largest tax increase in state history," Kansas may still face budget challenges and many Kansas may still feel things are not getting any better for THEM.

What school leaders can do for voters in their communities

With all this in mind, there are several steps school leaders and supporters can take to give voters a deeper perspective on the choices made and what they mean for the future.

First, say thank you. Not just to legislators who had to make the politically difficult votes on taxes – and will face the consequences, good or bad – but to the taxpayers who will be paying more.

School leaders should consider formal, organized and on-going ways to thank their constituents, when tax withholding goes up this summer, when schools open in August, and when parents and patrons are at school events. Everyone feels better about making a contribution when it is recognized and appreciated, not merely expected.

Second, put the new money to work in ways that immediately helps students and families. Yes, there are millions of dollars in backlogged operating needs and salary requests. But Kansans – and the Supreme Court – expect to see visible progress in helping students do better.

It can't all be done at once, but opening schools this fall with a showcase of ideas to implement the "Big Five" Kansans Can goals – kindergarten readiness, individual plans for student, addressing social and emotional needs, raising graduation rates and getting more students successfully started in college and technical training – will show people how their tax dollars are being used to help students. Commissioner Randy Watson frequently told the legislature top teachers he speaks with always prioritize programs to help students over personal salaries.

Third, consider – prudently – reducing cash balances. Again, there are many justifiable reasons why districts have increased cash reserves, most notably during the years of state budget turmoil. But after this legislature took steps to finally provide stability for the next two years, districts should consider ways to reasonably invest money in one-time investments, like professional development to improve the educational outcomes.

Fourth, strengthen parent and community communications. The State Board’s new accreditation system requires a focus on relationships. Improving graduation and postsecondary readiness invites closer ties with employers and higher education. Individual plans of study require close communication with parents. Kindergarten readiness and addressing social/emotional issues will usually require working with other community providers as well as adding school services.

Fifth, take a stronger role in the economic development efforts in your community. We have learned that simply cutting taxes and sitting back to watch business take off isn't enough. But simply turning the clock back five years won’t be enough either. Even before the tax cuts, many Kansas were dealing with long-term trends eroding their individual and community vitality. School board members and administrators need to be involved in finding ways to reverse these trends.

Many school leaders are already involved, but it is important to strengthen this commitment. They may feel they lack the expertise to promote community development, but the experts haven’t always been right, either. The most important qualification may simply be commitment and a willingness to work other community organizations and interests.

Sixth, champion the long-term goals of Kansans Can. Each of these steps can help give voters a sense that their financial contributions are having an impact; that and the public school system is working better and more responsively. But the most important step may be for school leaders and supporters to fully commit to the goals of Kansans Can. As KASB explained in testimony several times this session, there is no meaningful correlation between state tax burden and economic prosperity – if anything, "high tax" states are somewhat MORE likely to have higher incomes and lower poverty than “low tax” states.

However, there IS a strong, positive correlation between education levels and income. That is because higher levels of education tend to result in higher salaries and employment, and because almost all of the job growth since the Great Recession has been for jobs requiring more than a high school diploma or less. No matter how low taxes are cut, it won't create jobs for people without the skills to fill them.

School leaders shouldn't be euphoric over the results of the 2017 Legislature. Neither should they be discouraged. Significant steps were taken to stabilize the state budget that provides over two-thirds of school funding; to restore a workable school finance system with the largest funding increase in over a decade; to provide a broader, more balanced tax system; and to agree on educational targets for the future.

The challenge now is to show Kansans how those changes will make THEIR lives and communities better.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Evidence shows Kansas schools are organized and operated efficiently to produce high student outcomes.

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: contrary to claims that Kansas schools are administratively top-heavy, Kansas compares well to the highest achieving states in the nation.

Rather than increase funding, some policy-makers and advocates suggest that districts could cut administrative overhead and redirect funding to achieve better results. Evidence indicates that Kansas is already following best practices for staffing and organization.

A. Kansas school district spending on superintendent salaries and “back office” costs are minimal.

Total Kansas superintendent salaries were $31 million last year, or 0.5 percent of total expenditures. Expenditures for all central office and districts administration function – including “back office” functions like payroll, human resources, etc. – are $266 million, or 4.4 percent of expenditures. Even a significant reduction in those areas would not result in major changes in other areas.

B. High achieving states have more teachers, more support staff, more administration, smaller schools and smaller districts. Low achieving states are the opposite.

Federal data from the Digest of Education Statistics indicate that not only do the highest achieving states spend more pupil, they have many more employees per 1,000 students, including administrative staff.

The highest achieving states have 160.7 staff positions per 1,000 student, and 6.3 are in district administration. Kansas has 143 staff per 1,000 students, but just 3.8 are in district administration – less than the national average.

The highest achieving states have more teaching positions than Kansas, but Kansas provides about the same percentage of these positions, and has more instructional positions than the national average or the lowest achieving states. Kansas also has more principals and student/teacher support positions (such as librarians, counselors, nurses, etc.) than the national average and lowest achieving states.
In addition, national data shows that the highest achieving states have smaller school district size and smaller average school size than the national average and lowest achieving states.

KASB research on Kansas assessments confirms national studies that smaller school size has a positive correlation with student outcomes.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Specific ways school districts will use additional funding to improve student success.

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: how increased funding would be used to improve student success.

Although each district’s needs and circumstances will be different, the general uses of new funding is clear, based on conversations KASB held with school leaders this year and how districts used additional resources after Montoy decision. Targets for new funding would likely include:

Add/restore positions to keep low class size and improve services

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

Restore non-certified positions (aide, para, etc.) reduced since 2009;
1,000 FTE positions times estimated salary of $35,000 $35.0 million

Expand preschool to meet State Board goal of kindergarten readiness

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

Increase services to meet career planning and social/emotional needs
Increase school counselor and social worker positions (currently
approximately 1,500) by 50 percent; 750 positions times average
teacher salary of $55,454 $41.6 million

Add services for students not meeting standards

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 Graduates services (or similar) at average
cost of $1,230 for 40 percent of students grades 9-12 based on risk
factors (56,000) $68.8 million

Restore salary levels to keep Kansas school positions competitive

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 members $127 million

Total funding increase: $778.7 million

Other benefits of increased funding:

With higher salaries, increase school year for students, which has been reduced by approximately one week as districts negotiated fewer days under limited salary increases.

Reduce student fees, which have increased significantly in some districts for activities, early childhood and transportation.

Reduce property tax reliance, which has increased as districts used more local option budget funding with frozen base state aid.

Monday, May 8, 2017

The school finance plan developed by the House K-12 committee plan is sound; the amount of funding is justified but will be eroded the longer it is spread out

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: how the plan developed by the House K-12 Committee measures up in structure, and evidence to support the amount of new funding.

The structure of the House K-12 Committee plan is constitutionally sound, supported by evidence and addresses public concerns.

After two years of research, statewide input from school leaders and collaboration with other organizations, KASB adopted a set of school finance recommendations called Putting Students First. The proposed House committee plan meets most of those goals.

A. The plan includes three key component of school finance: per pupil funding, adjustments for different costs and equalized local flexibility.

It would return Kansas to a modified foundation formula used by all nine higher achieving states; and sets a higher foundational amount per student, although phased in over five years.
It restores weighting factors previously acceptable to Kansas Supreme Court, based on previous cost studies.

It authorizes local options for funding operating and building costs equalized at levels previously found acceptable by the court. The increases in base state aid will allow increased use of the proposed Local Foundation Budget.

B. The plan directs significant additional funding to lower performing students and to help more students reach higher levels.

Approximately 30 percent weighted enrollment under the plan would be for bilingual, at-risk and vocational weightings, so 30 percent “foundation” increases would go to those programs. In addition, the bill would expand funding for at-risk preschool by $2 million per year for five years.

The bill would fund students in all day kindergarten programs as full-time students, which many districts currently fund through at-risk weighting; which would allow funding to be directed at additional at-risk programs.

Foundation funding increases would allow schools to provide low class size, which is critical for helping at-risk students; restore or add teachers in high need area; and provide compensation to attract and retain quality staff, after Kansas teacher salaries have lagged behind inflation and declined in national ranking since 2008.

The plan would restore funding for two critical programs to improve instruction and promote innovative practices: teacher professional development and new teacher mentoring.

C. The plan bases accountability on meaningful measures of student success.

The bill provides accountability through the new accreditation system being implemented by the State Board of Education under the Kansans Can initiative. The effort is based on two years of public hearings, employer and higher education input and development by education leaders.
The new system has five outcomes: kindergarten readiness, individual career-based plans of study, social and emotional factors measured locally, higher graduation rates and higher postsecondary participation. The system will track student participation in technology and academic programs for two years after high school.

The amount of funding in the plan is justified by evidence, but this would be eroded the longer it takes to be fully implemented.

The Kansas Supreme Court did not order a specific total amount of funding; however, there are a number of indicators to suggest a range of funding levels required to provide “suitable” finance for educational improvement and student success.

A. Inflation since the funding was found constitutional under the Montoy decision and Legislative remedy.

The Kansas Supreme Court approved a three-year plan to provide suitable funding by 2009. Total school district funding in 2016 was about $525 million below 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation, and general operating funds (general fund, local option budget and special education aid) are over $600 million below. The House Committee plan provides a total of over $750 million, but would not be fully implemented for five years.

B. Previous rates of Kansas funding associated with educational improvement.

Rate of growth. Since 1990, school funding increased an average of approximately two percent more than inflation, over which time Kansas educational outcomes improved significantly. It would require an additional $162 million in general fund, LOB and special education to provide this rate of increase over the next two years. The House Committee plan would provide annual increases of approximately $150 million in general funding and special education aid per year for five years, plus additional authority for the local option budget as the foundation level increases.

Percentage of personal income. From 1975 to 2010, total school district funding in Kansas averaged 4.54 percent of state personal income. Based on the Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimate of state income growth, Kansas personal income will be $146.6 billion in 2017 and $152.3 billion in 2018. Providing total K-12 funding of 4.45 percent would equal $6.61 billion for 2017 and $6.914 for 2018, compared to $6.021 in 2016; or an increase of $590 million for 2017 and a further $300 million for 2018 – a two-year total of about $900 million. The House Committee plan would provide $750 million over five years.

C. States that have higher levels of overall student success.

After adjusting for regional cost differences, states that perform better than Kansas on 15 educational measures spent $2,855 more per pupil than Kansas in 2014, equal to over $1.3 billion more. The Midwestern states that outrank Kansas spend $1,407 more per pupil than Kansas, equal to $650.9 million more than Kansas. If Kansas funding had increased at the same rate as higher achieving states since 2008, total funding would be $1,385, or $640.7 million, higher.

D. Recommendations of the State Board of Education.

The State Board of Education, which seeks to implement the Kansans Can vision of preparing each student for success consistent with the Rose Capacities, has proposed a total increase of $893.5 million. Most of this money would increase the previous base state aid per pupil. It would also fund special education aid at the statutory level, and fund teacher mentoring and professional development.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Evidence demonstrates that school funding is critical to student success.

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: how past Kansas funding has supported educational improvement, how states that outperform Kansas fund their public schools; and what past Kansas studies have said about funding and student success.

The Kansas supreme Court agreed that money is related to educational performance. Multiple reasons support this.

A. Until recently, Kansas educational improvement was supported by increasing funding more than inflation and targeting more funding at special needs students.

A previous post discussed the steady increase in educational attainment in Kansas. That rise in education levels has been matched by funding increases that have consistently exceeded inflation. However, since 2009, total funding has fallen behind inflation.

As part of higher overall funding, much more funding has been added to address special student needs. Between 2000 and 2015, total state funding for general operating funds, special education state aid and local option budgets increased about $1.4 billion. Over 44 percent of that increase was for “restricted” purposes such as special education or  at-risk services (including expansion of all day kindergarten programs, bilingual services and transportation).

In addition, federal funding for targeted programs such as special education and Title I programs for disadvantaged students increased from $130 million to $325 million, and federal aid for student meal programs doubled from $90 million to $180 million between 2000 and 2015.

Together, these programs helped school districts graduate more students and prepare more students for postsecondary education and careers. Kansas has boosted graduation rates and prepared more students for college by assisting students that previously did not reach those levels.

B. States with higher overall student achievement than Kansas in areas related to the “Rose” capacities provide more total funding.

Last August, KASB ranked all states on a weighted average of 15 indicators closely aligned to the Legislature’s state education goals and the State Board’s Kansans Can outcomes.
The indicators are: percent of young adults completing high school, some college or a four-year degree by age 24; graduation rates for all students, low income, disabled, English Language Learners, percent of all students, low income and non-low income students at both the basic and proficient levels of the National Assessment of Education Progress, and performance on the ACT and SAT tests, adjusted for percent of students participating.

Here are more details the research found:

The nine states with higher overall average achievement (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Iowa, Nebraska, Vermont, Illinois, North Dakota and Connecticut) provided about $4,800 more per pupil than Kansas, and about $3,000 if adjusted for cost of living differences. (2014 data).

The 10 lowest performing states (Alabama, Oregon, Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Arizona, Louisiana, New Mexico, Alaska and Nevada) provided an average of $500 less per pupil than Kansas, and over $1,000 less if adjusted for cost of living.
Although Kansas remains a high achieving state, on most of the 15 educational measures used, the national average improved more than Kansas. In other words, Kansas has been lagging in both funding and educational improvement.

C. Past Kansas studies have shown the importance of funding levels and targeted funding.

Following the Montoy decision by the Kansas Supreme Court, the Legislature commissioned the Legislative Post Audit Division to conduct a comprehensive study of the cost of K-12 in terms of both required inputs and desired outcomes. The results included three major findings.

First, the study found a nearly one-to-one correlation between increased funding and student outcomes measured by standardized tests.

Second, the study developed the basis for the major weightings set by the Legislature and approved by the Kansas Supreme Court under the previous school finance system, and which are recommended by the House K-12 Budget Committee in HB 2410.

Third, adjusted for inflation, the base or foundational amount found to be required to meet standards in 2006 would be significantly higher today.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Kansas’ educational attainment is at an all-time high, but it must continue to improve.

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: what the Kansas Constitution says about educational improvement and funding, how educational outcomes have improved, and why more is required.

A. The Kansas constitution mandates a system of public schools for educational improvement, and the state is responsible for the finance of that system.

Article Six of the Kansas Constitution, amended by the people in 1966, states in Section 1: “The legislature shall provide for intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement by establishing and maintaining public schools, educational institutions and related activities which may be organized and changed in such manner as may be provided by law.” Section 6 directs that “The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state.”

B. Overall Kansas educational attainment has been steadily improving for decades.

Long term education trends. The U.S. Census Bureau has tracked completion of high school and a four-year college degree by state since 1940. Kansas has improved educational attainment each decade, and further improved in the five years since the 2010 census.

Details for adults 25 and older since 1990. Kansas has decreased the percent of the population not completing high school by half (from 19.7 to 9.7 percent. The percentage of high school graduates with any college experience, including a technical certificate or associated degree, increased from 27.3 to 32.0 percent. The percent with a four-year degree increased from 14.4 to 20.4 percent, and with an advanced degree increased from 7.0 to 11.4 percent.

Details for Kansans age 18-24 since 2000. For the age group most recently in elementary and secondary schools, the percentage of young adults who have not completed high school declined from 21.7 to 12.5 percent. The percentage completing high school increased from 78.3 to 87.5 percent.  The percentage with any college less than a four year degree increased from 43.9 to 48.9 percent, and completing a four-year degree has increased 7.6 to 8.9 percent. (The most recent data is from 2015, so 18-24-year-olds includes students in classes graduating from about 2009 through 2015.)

C. Despite improved educational levels, more Kansans will need higher levels of education to meet workforce demands and provide individual economic security.

The Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce has estimated that about 99 percent of jobs created since the Great Recession require more than a high school diploma. Kansas is expected to be in the top ten states in the percentage of jobs that will require a postsecondary credential. These are the higher paying jobs with benefits that allow a chance for middle-class life. These are the goals of the State Board of Education’s Kansans Can vision and outcomes, based on input from thousands of Kansans in community and business leader meetings.

If Kansas is going to thrive, it will take more than tax policy alone. It will take a workforce with the educational skills to fill and succeed in the kinds of jobs being created. Fortunately, Kansas is well poised to succeed. Among adults age 25 and older, Kansas ranks 17th in high school completion, 15th in some postsecondary completion, including technical certificates and two-year degrees, and 17th in completion of four year degrees or higher. However, to add jobs and raise income levels, Kansas will continue to improve education levels. The evidence says that will require continuing to raise education funding.