What are the long- and short-term trends in Kansas educational outcomes?
Long-term Kansas education levels have improved steadily for decades and have never been higher, as measured by years of education completed. Short-term, the record is more mixed.
A higher percentage of students are completing high school, attending college, and completing college degrees than ever before, both adults over age 24 and recent high school graduates age 18-24.
High school requirements have gotten tougher. Students are taking more courses, and more core academic subjects. Graduation requirements and admissions standards for Kansas universities have increased. These changes are adding value, because average income rises with each additional level of education.
Kansas state reading and math test scores rose in the 2000’s before falling in the early 2010’s. On new tests, scores declined slightly in the past three years. On national reading and math tests at 4th and 8th grade, Kansas scores rose during the 2000s but have fallen back since 2011. The percentage of students scoring “college ready” on ACT tests increased from 2006 to 2014 but declined the last several years.
The “four year” graduation rate and percentage of students participating in or completing postsecondary education has improved over the last several years (These are new measures).
What are the long- and short-term trends in Kansas school funding?
Long-term Kansas K-12 funding has increased more than inflation, but not in the past ten years.
Prior to 2010, total school funding typically increased about one to two percent more than inflation each year. From 2010 to 2017, funding usually increased at less than the rate of inflation or declined. Even after the Legislature increased funding last year, total school funding was below 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation.
However, Kansas education funding has not increased more than the state’s overall economy. Education funding is at a lower share of the total income of all Kansans it was in 1990.
As noted, long-term educational outcomes have increased as long-term funding increased; short-term outcomes have been mixed as funding didn’t keep up with inflation.
How have school districts used increased funding in the past?
Schools used “real” (more than inflation) increases to improve services to students and maintain quality.
School districts used additional funding to:
- Cover increasing student enrollment.
- Keep school salaries and benefits competitive with other states and the private sector (which have usually increased faster than inflation).
- Lower class sizes.
- Serve more students in preschool and all-day kindergarten.
- Expand special education services.
- Increase funding for safety, mental health and school nutrition.
- Improve technology and school facilities.
These efforts were limited from 2009 to 2017 as funding fell behind inflation. Districts have begun to restore efforts last year and this year with additional funding approved by the Legislature.
How do Kansas educational outcomes compare to other states?
Kansas ranks at or above that U.S. average on a wide range of education outcomes, and very high when all measures are averaged. But other states are improving faster.
Indicators include national reading and math tests at grades four and eight, graduation rates, ACT and SAT college readiness tests, and high school completion and college participation by 18-24-year-olds. Where possible, this includes data for low-income students and other subgroups. Although many states do better than Kansas on SOME of these measures, very few do better on all or most. Overall, Kansas ranks 9th when these indicators for the most recent year are averaged.
However, in recent years, many other states have improved more than Kansas on these indicators. In other words, other states have been “catching up” with Kansas outcomes.
How does Kansas educational funding compare to other states?
Kansas has consistently spent below the national average and has fallen further behind in recent years.
Since 2008, Kansas has fallen behind further behind the national average. In 2016, the most recent year national data is available, Kansas total per pupil funding was 30th in the nation. Kansas ranked 40th in the increase in funding between 2008 and 2016. Kansas has also fallen behind most states in the region.
How is Kansas school funding used?
Most school funding goes to instruction (direct teaching of students) and other services for students and teachers. Less than five percent is used for general administration and central services. The rest goes to school facility construction, operations and maintenance.
Specifically, 54 percent to instruction; 5 percent to student services; 5 percent to school building principals and staff; 4 percent to transportation; 4 percent to food services; 3 percent to libraries and teacher support; 10 percent to debt service on school construction bonds; 9 percent on operations and maintenance; 2 percent on building construction; 2 percent on general administration and 2 percent on central services. (2017 school district budgets.)
Kansas provides less total per pupil funding than most states, and also less than most states on non-instructional spending, including administration.
Who determines how much schools can spend and how the money can be used?
School funding is mixture of state, local and federal funding, with many “strings” attached.
The Legislature mostly determines how much general operating funding districts receive by setting a base amount per pupil, enrollment weightings and state special education aid; and setting a cap on local option budget. Local school boards a lot of flexibility in how these funds are spent, but some are limited to specific programs, like special education, at-risk and bilingual services.
School building and facilities costs are mostly determined by local voters through bond issues and capital outlay levies. These funds generally cannot be used for general operating purposes.
The federal government provides about 8 percent of Kansas school funding, and about 40 percent of federal funding is food service support. Most federal funds can only be used for specific purposes.