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New Thumbtack Survey Shows Kansas Business Owners Feeling Increasingly Positive about State Business Climate. http://bit.ly/1IPMQ0L


New Survey Shows Kansas Business Owners Feeling Increasingly Positive about State Business Climate
www.kansaspolicy.org
Thumbtack.com has begun tapping its nationwide network of independent service providers and contractors to build a monthly survey—released for the first time Tuesday—tracking economic outlook sentiments and unique market challenges small business own
Sat, 23 May 2015 02:00:01 +0000
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You're telling me the "Better Service, Better Price" thing has actually been implemented - AND WORKED - in a state! https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=1812&v=RGg6w5jA_Tg


Mitch Daniels on How to Cut Government & Improve Services

Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels served in office from 2005 to 2013 and in eight short years accomplished more than most politicians manage in a lifetime. H...
Fri, 22 May 2015 18:04:35 +0000
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Kansas Center for Economic Growth misleads on job growth...again! http://bit.ly/1HzFfDn


KCEG misleads on job growth – again
www.kansaspolicy.org
The latest misleading claim on job growth from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth is loaded with misleading and irrelevant information; they don’t fully disclose their methodology and at this writing they have ignored our request to explain it.&am
Fri, 22 May 2015 18:00:01 +0000
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Posted by Patrick Parkes on Friday, May 22, 2015

Thumbtack.com has begun tapping its nationwide network of independent service providers and contractors to build a monthly survey—released for the first time Tuesday—tracking economic outlook sentiments and unique market challenges small business owners face across the 50 states. The survey has been two and a half years in the making and is a unique one given its targeted focus on a business-owning demographic cohort that is often too small and/or too mobile/seasonal (over half of the respondents are sole proprietors) to be represented reliably in more traditional surveys comprised of typically larger businesses. Some of the interesting findings for Kansas were as follows:

  • 53.8% of Kansas respondents in April 2015 believed business conditions in the state would be either “a little better” or “much better” in the next three months.
  • 77% of respondents expected their employee compensation to remain the same in three months, but a sizable 21.3% expected to offer their employees “a little” or “a lot” in terms of a pay increase.
  • In a section on “Top Problems” small business owners in Kansas face, concerns voiced about “uncertain economic conditions” dropped by 5% compared to last year.
  • Small business owners in Kansas shared the positive sentiment expressed by the majority of small business owners in each of the rest of the 50 states by reporting feeling “somewhat positive” about the state and local business climates they inhabited. For the business owners in Kansas, this represented a continued, steady improvement in sentiment over the past eighteen months.

You can track the monthly updates directly from Thumbtack.com and we’ll be sure to note any significant findings in this space.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The latest misleading claim on job growth from the Kansas Center for Economic Growth is loaded with misleading and irrelevant information; they don’t fully disclose their methodology and at this writing they have ignored our request to explain it.  Sadly, this is not the first, second or even third time that KCEG has published misleading information and declined to produce documentation.

Here are the questions we posed to Annie McKay, executive director at KCEG:

We received a ‘read’ receipt but no reply, so we attempted to replicate their methodology to arrive at what they call “private sector job growth since tax changes” which they measure between January 2013 and March 2015.  Based on tests of Kansas and national data, it appears that KCEG is using seasonally adjusted jobs but we couldn’t find a 6-state region including all of Kansas’ neighbors to match their number.

KCEG has the national average increasing 5.2% and Kansas 3.8%, so we assume they are comparing January 2013 to March 2015.  This is not a true measure of post-tax reform activity, however; the base month of a point-to-point comparison should be the last month of the old tax system, which was December 2012.  Comparing Kansas to the 5-state region does show that Kansas is slightly behind (4.0% vs. 4.2%) but by not showing the performance of individual states, KCEG hides the fact that Kansas beat three of its four neighbors.   

While Kansas is outperforming three of its neighboring states on this measurement, point-to-point comparisons are problematic; one or both points can be unusual spikes or declines, making the data less reliable.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes average annual employment, which minimizes the impact of any single data point.

The more stable comparisons of average annual employment show job growth trends for Kansas to be much more competitive since tax reform.  Private sector jobs grew just 2.2% between 1998 and 2012, which ranked Kansas at #38, but Kansas moved up to #27 in 2013 and last year moved up again to #21.  That’s still not good enough and it will take perhaps another decade to fully understand the impact of tax reform, but the early trend is very encouraging.  Kansas still trails Colorado, but has improved its competitive position.  The table below shows Kansas trailed Colorado by a factor of five (2.2% vs. 10.6%) between 1998 and 2012 but has since closed the gap to a factor of two.

KCEG noted that Utah and Idaho have higher taxes on “the wealthy” and better job growth than Kansas, but of course they don’t tell the whole story.  Kansas does have a lower marginal rate than both states but that is a recent development; Kansas was higher than Utah until 2013 and much closer to Idaho when the marginal was 6.45%.  Kansas’ lower rates are helping to reverse trends but it will take much more time to catch up to states that historically grew much faster – like Utah and Idaho.

Here’s the rest of the story that KCEG doesn’t want you to know.  According to the Tax Foundation, the corporate income tax rate in Kansas is 40% higher than Utah’s and just slightly below Idaho’s.  State sales tax rates are comparable but Kansas has much higher local sales tax rates. 

Utah and Idaho also have much lower property taxes on commercial and industrial real estate. Kansas has the 10th highest effective tax rate on urban property and the worst in the nation on rural property!   Part of the reason that Kansas has very high effective tax rates is baked into the State Constitution, where Commercial and Industrial property is assessed at 25% of appraised value but Residential is assessed at 11.5%.

The other major factor driving up property taxes is that Kansas has too much government.  Kansas and Utah have about the same population but Kansas has 1,997 cities, counties and townships whereas Utah has only 274.  Idaho has just 244.  Extra government means extra government employees (and higher taxes to pay for all of that government); Kansas is ranked #47 in government employees per 10,000 residents (i.e., the 3rd worst in the nation) but Utah is ranked #15 and Idaho is #9.

These truths about private sector job growth and relevant competitive issues with Utah and Idaho are typical of KCEG efforts to mislead citizens and legislators – and probably explain why they refuse to engage KPI in public debates on tax, spending and education issues.

Posted by David Dorsey on Monday, May 18, 2015

The USD 501 school board voted unanimously on April 29 to hold an election to increase the district’s local option budget (LOB). They claim the $3 million that could be raised with voter approval is necessary “in the face of state budget cuts.”  The district held three public meetings to discuss how to deal with what they called a $1.6 million cut in state funding this year and $2 million over the next two years. KPI has shown in this blog that Topeka Public Schools will actually get a total increase in state aid of 6.5% over the three years of the new block grant funding law.

But that’s not how a school district sees things. To the educrats, a cut means getting a smaller increase than they had planned.

If I were the suspicious type, I might think the meetings were just a ruse, using the implicit threat of cutting school programs in order to scare the public into supporting an override election to raise more money.

The purpose here is not to revisit the increase vs. decrease debate. The purpose here is to discuss the spending side of the equation and show just how easy it would be for USD 501 to meet their self-defined shortfalls – and without having any impact on students.

First, here’s a little perspective on the realities between what is budgeted and how much is actually  spent. The adjoining table shows the millions that have gone unexpended for the last four years. Given this recent history, it’s hard to imagine that a $1.6 million “cut” from the budgeted $203 million 2014-15 budget is even a concern, let alone cause for an election.

Even if one concedes the point of a revenue shortfall, should the taxpayers of USD 501 (in the name of full disclosure, I do not live in the district, so I don’t have a dog in this hunt) shell out more money to the district? Or could the district find ways to reduce spending and operate more efficiently (a concept foreign to any government organization)? As a former employee of USD 501 I can attest that finding a savings of what amounts to $114 per pupil should be pretty easy to accomplish.

I offer these three opportunities that would reduce spending far in excess of what the district calls a cut and save local taxpayers the burden of providing more financial support to a district that won’t look seriously at reducing spending.

Reduce a bloated administration

As the table shows, Topeka Public Schools has the highest per pupil administrative costs of the 25 largest districts in the state. A glance at their own budget document reveals the costs are trending significantly higher. The 2013-14 costs were a 14% increase from the previous year. The USD 501 2014-15 budget for administration and support of $28,301,407 is a whopping 25% higher than 2013-14! That’s an increase from two years ago of 41.8% when administration costs were just under $20 million.

Some of that increase can be explained by the decision made by the USD 501 school board to drastically increase salaries of the administrative staff by $435,400 in the summer of 2013 in the name of being competitive with other districts. Perhaps if USD 501 was “competitive” in terms of administrative costs per pupil, there would be no issue.

 I’m guessing these facts didn’t come up at the public meetings.

Put literacy and math coaches back in the classroom

Little-known to the public is that in every USD 501 school there are licensed teachers who do NOT teach students. They are known as math coaches and literacy coaches. Each school has at least one coach and most have more than one. What is their job, you ask? They are in the buildings to help classroom teachers do a better job. Furthermore, USD 501 forbids the coaches from directly teaching students, except in special circumstances. They are there to teach the teachers.

There are several reasons the practice of having licensed teachers be coaches should end.

  • “Teaching the teachers” is what professional development is supposed to do.
  • Dealing with ineffective teachers should be the job of the principals, not other teachers.
  • Since coaches have no contractual authority over teachers, teachers do not have to utilize coaches. In practice, that means teachers who are least effective don’t solicit assistance from the coaches, so the coaches end up spending most of their time with the most effective teachers.
  • Many coaches use the position as a stepping-stone toward getting into administration.
  • Most of the coaches are among the best teachers in the district and should be with students, not other teachers.

To be fair to USD 501, math and literacy coaches are an educational trend and most districts now employ them. However, it doesn’t stray from the fact that money spent on coaches doesn’t directly benefit students. In fact, students lose out anytime a quality teacher chooses to become a coach and leaves the classroom.

Putting just one coach per building back in the classroom through attrition would go a long way toward dealing with the budget “cut.”

Cash reserves

The district could easily deal with any short-term budget issue simply by using their current operating cash reserves. The following table shows USD 501’s cash reserves for the past ten years. The table not only shows the district had in excess of $24 million from which to draw at the beginning of this school year, but that is 56.2% more than a decade ago. I doubt they explained that fact to the patrons at the public meetings.

 

I now present a rather conservative approach to dealing with the “budget cut.”  A 5% reduction in administration, returning just one coach in each building to the classroom, and tapping 10% from the operating cash reserves, hardly Draconian measures, would generate nearly twice as much as they could take from the voters.

Savings Category

Spending reduction

5% reduction in administration costs

$1.41 million

Returning 1 coach to the classroom (through attrition) in each traditional public school building – 26 X $60,000 (salary/benefits)

 

$1.56 million

10% from operating cash reserves

$2.47 million

Total reduction

 $5.44 million

Board member Patrick Woods was quoted as saying K-12 funding is a “state responsibility.” Maybe it’s time the state starts taking responsibility for how the money gets managed.

Posted by David Dorsey on Thursday, May 14, 2015

Note: Since the undertaking of this at-risk project, the school funding formula has changed to what’s commonly referenced as the block grant system. At-risk funding as a distinct pot of money technically has expired although the money  still goes to the schools. The block grant approach is scheduled to sunset after the next two years when the legislature rolls out a new funding formula. It is highly likely at-risk funding will re-emerge in some form. This blog describes the at-risk program status immediately prior to the change in the law.

In the first two blogs I detailed what at-risk funding is and the philosophy/research/politics behind the justification for additional funding to adequately educate low-income students. In this blog I will describe the history of at-risk funding in the Sunflower State and how it is we are where we are today.

Although Article 6 of the Kansas constitution gives the responsibility for funding public education to the state legislature, which would include the at-risk program, the force behind the present level of state education funding came from the judicial branch. In particular, two court cases have shaped the current state of the Kansas at-risk program.

Mock v. State of Kansas (1991)

This case challenged the constitutionality of the existing school funding formula – the 1973 School District Equalization Act. Without getting into the depths of the opinion, Judge Terry Bullock’s ruling included a directive to spend more money on those “pupils of low socioeconomic status (who) need compensatory education to offset the natural disadvantages of their environment.” Judge Bullock’s decision spawned at-risk funding as part of the new education finance law in 1992 - the School District Finance and Quality Performance Act (SDFQPA).

Beginning in 1992 a 5% weighting over and above base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) was provided for each student who qualified for a free lunch under the Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program (NSLP). In the first year of the new law approximately 72,000 (16.8%) Kansas students qualified for at-risk funding, generating just over $13 million. The weighting stayed at 5% until the 1997-98 school year, when it was increased to 6.5%. By the 2001-02 school year, the weighting had increased to 10% (with 1% targeted toward 3rd grade mastery reading). It remained at that level for four years. By the 2004-05 school year, about 135,000 students state-wide (30%) were receiving free lunch which generated about $52 million in at-risk money.

Then came the next court case.

Montoy v. State of Kansas (1999 – 2006)

The SDFQPA faced a legal challenge beginning in 1999 which worked its way through the court system until fully resolved in 2006. Much has been written and discussed about the Montoy decision and the profound impact it has had on education financing in Kansas, including where the state currently stands with regard to at-risk funding.

The starting point of this progression began in 2001. The legislature commissioned the firm of Augenblick & Myers (A&M) to do a cost study analysis of providing an adequate education to the students of Kansas. The study was supposed to be based on efficiency, but A&M deliberately deviated from their methodology to produce inflated numbers. In its final analysis, A&M recommended an increase of a minimum of $773 million to suitably fund public K-12 education.

The legislature attempted to preempt Supreme Court intrusion by expanding the pot by $141.1 million in 2005, which included an increase in the at-risk weighting from .10 to .193. Additionally, the legislature directed Legislative Post Audit (LPA) to “conduct a professional cost study analysis to determine the costs of delivering the kindergarten and grades one through 12 curriculum, related services, and other programs mandated by State statute in accredited schools.” The LPA study, presented in January 2006, recommended an additional $316 million using an input-based approach or an increase of $399 million using an output-based approach. These recommendations notwithstanding, LPA specified the findings were made to help the legislature decide “appropriate funding levels” and that the recommendations weren’t “intended to dictate any specific funding level, and shouldn’t be viewed that way.”  

Ultimately, the court used the A&M study and made the unprecedented decision of ordering the legislature to increase school funding by $853 million (adjusting the A&M findings for inflation). Note: former KPI scholar and current Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall describes in detail the methodological shortcomings of both the A&M and LPA studies in “Analysis of Montoy vs. State of Kansas.”

Although the Court did not specifically address particular funding categories, such as at-risk, much of its opinion addressed their concerns with the various student weightings, including at-risk. The Court concluded that the current weightings (.193 for at-risk) did not reflect an actual cost basis, but were rather increased merely as a “good faith effort toward compliance.”

The legislature responded to the court order by significantly increasing the at-risk weighting, but there is no evidence it was done on an actual cost basis, as referenced by the Supreme Court.  That conclusion is based upon a review of the two cost studies.

Cost basis for at-risk funding – two viewpoints.

Augenblick & Myers. The A&M study included a method to calculate the additional cost of serving at-risk students. It differed from the existing weighting system because A&M considered the size of school a function of the cost, while the current system weighted students the same regardless of school size. A&M created a sliding formula giving the students attending the state’s smallest schools a weighting of .20, while students at the largest schools were weighted at .60, employing an assumption that it is more expensive to educate at-risk students in the larger schools.

Legislative Post Audit (LPA). LPA’s cost model changed the current weighting (2005) from .193 to .484. They also created a new at-risk category called “Urban Poverty” with an additional weighting of .726 to the four districts of Kansas City (USD 500), Kansas City-Turner (USD 202), Topeka (USD 501), and Wichita (USD 259) citing “significantly higher costs incurred in high-poverty, inner-city school districts” that experience “a variety of more serious social problems including drugs and violent crime.”

The legislature’s response.

 The legislature complied with the Court, phasing in the directive over a three-year period. Although they satisfied the $853 million order the Court based on the A&M report, the legislature did not utilize the A&M at-risk method. A review of committee meeting minutes and various documents/plans that were proposed to increase at-risk dollars during the 2006 legislative session did not reveal any discussion of using an “A&M-style” sliding scale or any cost-based funding scheme. The legislative compromise forged a new funding formula that included elevating the at-risk weighting to .278 in 2006-07, .378 in 2007-08, and .456 beginning in 2008-09. The legislature also created a compound category called “high-density at-risk” that gave additional weighting to students in some districts based in factoring a high rate of at-risk students and the per-square mile density of the student population. See this blog for the exact definition. (Also the new law established a small at-risk category for those who were not eligible for free lunch but were not proficient on state assessments. This category was eliminated in 2014.)

The adjoining table shows how much more it would have cost the state, had the legislature chosen either cost study. This year alone, the A&M approach is almost a half billion dollars more than current level. The LPA method would have cost taxpayers nearly $150 million in increased at-risk spending.

 

 

The following table summarizes the at-risk weighting percentages by year since its inception in 1992.

 

 

Please note that since 2001, a weighting of 1.0 is dedicated to mastery of 3rd grade reading skills and these weightings since 2006 do not include the high-density category(ies).

So, this is where we are and how we got there.

Up next: A review of how schools districts spend at-risk money.

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Thursday, May 14, 2015

The U.S. Supreme Court will rule in June on King v. Burwell: a case that could spell the end of the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA or Obamacare) as we know it if the Court disallows the ACA’s federal health insurance subsidies in 34 states (nearly 67% of the country) and thus prevents the law’s individual and employer mandates from taking effect in those states.

The ACA called for the creation of health insurance marketplaces (aka health exchanges), or online portals allowing individuals lacking insurance coverage through their employers to purchase ACA-approved coverage with the help of federal subsidies. To date, 34 states declined to assume the administrative and financial burdens of building and running their own exchanges: burdens that—as the Washington Post reported on May 1, 2015—continue to mount. They opted instead for the federal government to run exchanges for their states.

To date, only 16 states and Washington, D.C. have established and are running their own, purely state-based exchanges without federal managerial support. The distinction between state and federal management of exchanges is important given the ACA’s explicit text dealing with distribution of federal subsidies to consumers purchasing health insurance coverage on exchanges. Specifically, the ACA notes the availability of federal subsidies in “Exchange[s] established by the State.” Thus, if one reads and interprets the legislation verbatim, individuals operating in the 34 federally managed exchanges NOT “established by the State” would be ineligible to receive federal subsidies when purchasing their coverage. The federal subsidies are designed to offset the higher costs associated with the highly-standardized, ACA-approved plans, but they are also the key triggers to the ACA’s individual and employer mandates to purchase coverage. So, if these subsidies are non-existent in any state, the mandates cease to take effect in that state. This is the core issue at the heart of King v. Burwell. If the Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs in the case, Obamacare—for all intents and practical purposes—will be inoperable in the 34 states with federal exchanges while continuing to operate in 16 states (and Washington, D.C.) with state-run exchanges.

The federal government—arguing for full preservation of the ACA—has tried to downplay the “Exchange established by the State” phrasing as simply a “term of art” applying to all exchanges—both state-run and federally-run. It argues that this interpretation has to be correct and that the phrasing cannot possibly be interpreted literally given the legislative intent of the act to provide everyone in every state with affordable health insurance. But there are problems.

Cato Institute scholar Michael Cannon, speaking at an event sponsored by the Show-Me Institute in Kansas City in March, identified several holes in and outright evidence contrary to the government’s line of reasoning and broader case.  To begin, Cannon noted that the U.S. Congress chose the ACA and its omission of reference to subsidy availability (read: unavailability) on federal exchanges over other bills that explicitly provided subsidies on federal exchanges. Furthermore, rather than being highlighted as an unfortunate feature of the ACA and corrected, the omission survived several rounds of revisions to the ACA’s text and reference sections.    

A second curious omission that—as Cannon contended—signals true legislative intent occurs in the way the ACA defines a “State” as the 50 recognized states of the United States plus Washington, D.C. The inclusion of Washington, D.C. — which is not a U.S. state —as a “State” for the ACA’s purposes suggests that Congress could have defined the federal government as a “State” for the ACA’s purposes as well if it intended for federally-run exchanges to be eligible for subsidy distribution as “Exchange[s] established by the State.” So, the fact that it did not define the federal government as such is telling.

Outside of the ACA’s pure textual construction, MIT economist Johnathan Gruber, who was a key architect of both Obamacare and similar state legislation predating it in Massachusetts (aka Romneycare), verified exactly what the plaintiffs are arguing about the ACA. Gruber said in a 2012 video, speaking to an audience at the Nobilis Innovation and Collaboration Center, “I think what’s important to remember politically about this is if you’re a state, and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”    

Additional evidence from both Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) efforts to implement the ACA also point to a broader administrative understanding that subsidies were to be distributed only to state-run exchanges. See Scot K. Vorse’s work on ACA-related administrative action timelines and correspondence for further reading on this topic.

 Looking beyond the evidence undergirding the plaintiffs’ argument and looking specifically at the dynamics of the case before the Court, Cannon characterized the case as an uphill battle for the plaintiffs given that they are challenging a federal agency. However, in light of the fact that the U.S. judicial system has been largely deferential to federal agencies and their decision-making prerogatives over time, King v. Burwell’s ascension to the U.S. Supreme Court could speak to the strength of the plaintiffs’ challenge.

In their own readings of the proverbial tea leafs, supporters of the government’s “legislative intent” argument zeroed in on a particular statement from Justice Anthony Kennedy as a sign that the Court couldn’t possibly interpret the ACA as written due to the dire consequences such an interpretation would bring. In a statement addressing the attorney for the plaintiffs Kennedy opined:

 “From the standpoint of the dynamics of Federalism ... there is something very powerful to the point that if your argument is accepted, the States are being told either create your own Exchange, or we’ll send your insurance market into a death spiral.”

Yet, Cannon offered a different take. Perhaps Justice Kennedy's comment provides a window into a line of thinking that the ACA's explicit "Exchange established by the State" language regarding subsidy distribution was designed deliberately to coerce states into setting up their own health exchanges. If Kennedy and four other justices needed for a majority do indeed settle on a ruling that classifies the ACA's subsidy provisions as coercive, the ruling could have implications beyond the ACA as precedent from which other federal-state agency relationships and mandates deemed coercive could be challenged.

In any case, Kennedy's vote and influences on the Court's decision overall are sure to be followed particularly closely given his role as the proverbial "swing vote" on a Court that has the potential to otherwise split evenly across liberal and conservative ideological fault lines.

Check back in June for a post-decision update and analysis.       

 

 

   

 
Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, May 13, 2015

While some school districts and special interests claim state aid to schools is declining this year, KSDE Deputy Commissioner for Finance Dale Dennis confirms that state aid to schools is increasing.

 

KSDE published spreadsheets comparing block grant equivalent funding for the 2013-14 school year with block grant funding for this year and the next two school years.  SF15-092 shows total funding last year was $3.263 billion including KPERS and $2.951 billion without KPERS.  SF15-109 shows total funding this year of $3.408 billion including KPERS and $3.093 billion without.  Even excluding KPERS, state aid to schools under the block grants will increase by $142 million. 

 

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Monday, May 11, 2015

Bureau of Labor Statistics private-sector jobs numbers through Q1 2015 show Kansas continuing to become increasingly competitive with its income-taxing peers post-tax reform of 2012. First quarter job growth was a little less than the full year of 2014 (1.9%) but still more competitive than before tax reform.  Kansas’ job growth was at 67% (1.52% vs. 2.27%) of the rate of its income-taxing peer states. It was at 61% of this rate prior to tax reform.


Private sector job growth is more meaningful than non-farm growth, which includes government.  The point of tax reform was to grow the private sector, not government.  After all, the health of an economy is best measured by growth in the private sector because the private sector provides the vast majority of funding to run government.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics updates prior years’ data in the first quarter of each year, and the revised numbers show that Kansas did much better in two years following tax reform than in the fourteen years preceding.  Kansas was much more competitive with its income taxing peers (86% of their growth since tax reform but only 61% prior) and with the states without an income tax (55% versus 15%).


 Check back for next month’s update.

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Monday, May 4, 2015

The following guest post is written by Michael LaFaive  of the Mackinac Center For Public Policy and Todd Nesbit, Ph.D., of Ohio State University.

Various proposals would raise excise taxes on cigarettes, one by as much as $1.50 per pack among other items. This is a bad — if not irrational — choice for Kansas given the large raft of unintended consequences associated with it for little in the way of public health advances.

Raising cigarette excise taxes by almost 190 percent would mean Kansas would be surrounded by states with lower — sometimes dramatically lower — excise taxes. The tax-driven price difference between cigarettes in Kansas and nearby states will represent an opportunity by both casual and organized smugglers to profit handsomely from tax avoidance and evasion.

The Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy annually estimates the degree to which cigarettes are smuggled in most states. Its statistical model tells us that through 2013 Kansas had a smuggling rate of 15 percent, ranking the Sunflower state 19th among the 47 in the study.

But that estimate reflects a tax rate of 79 cents, not $2.29 per pack. At the higher rate, however, the model tells us that Kansas’ smuggling rate will leap to a stunning 46.5 percent of the market. That is, of all the cigarettes consumed in Kansas after this excise tax increase nearly 45 percent will be a function of tax avoidance or evasion. At this rate Kansas will sport the third highest smuggling rate in the nation, behind New York and Arizona.

It is not hard to see why. In addition to being surrounded by lower tax states Kansas is located next door to the lowest tax state in the union, Missouri, at just 17 cents per pack. This is probably why the model also tells us that 26.5 percent of total smuggling will be of the “casual” variety, such as individuals grabbing a carton while in other areas of KCMO.

Lest the reader believe that these estimates are outrageously high consider that the Mackinac Center is not the only institution attempting to measure smuggling rates among states. On February 19 of this year the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council published a study on tax evasion and tax avoidance and pegged Kansas’ 2011 smuggling rate at 21 percent, far higher than the Mackinac Center’s own estimates.

The study, titled, “Understanding the U.S. Illicit Tobacco Market: Characteristics, Policy Context, and Lessons from International Experiences” pegs the national market for illicit smokes at between 8.5 percent and 21 percent. The latter figure is cited from others scholars’ “plausible estimates” published in 2013 and based on data from 2009 and 2010.

These smuggling numbers are why lawmakers should never confuse changes in legal paid sales of cigarettes with quitting. Time and again burgeoning illicit markets undermine the health goals of very well-intentioned public officials.

In his 2004 study titled “Cigarette Tax Avoidance and Evasion,” economist Mark Stehr reports that up to 85 percent of the after tax change in legal paid sales can be attributed to avoidance or evasion. That is, official sales are declining, but people aren’t necessarily quitting.

The authors of a 2014 study in the academic Journal of Economic Inquiry titled “Do Higher Taxes Reduce Adult Smoking?” argue that “considering all the evidence, we conclude that there is insufficient justification for the widespread belief that raising cigarette taxes will significantly reduce cigarette consumption among adults, even young adults.”

The reason is probably fairly straight forward. People like to smoke and are willing to turn to less expensive roll-your-own products or to the illicit market or both to acquire tobacco.

Of course, smuggling is not the only unintended consequence of higher tobacco taxes. High tax states like New York or Michigan have also seen violence against people, police and property as well as thefts at the retail and wholesale levels.

Lastly, Kansas doesn’t need to raise taxes on this or any other activity. The Kansas Policy Institute informs us that the state is planning to spend nearly $1 billion more (adjusted for inflation) than it did in 2004.

The budget must be balanced but perhaps lawmakers should kick the spending habit before taxing those with a smoking habit.

 

 

 

Posted by Dave Trabert on Friday, May 1, 2015

Some of the push to raise tax revenue in Kansas is being couched in terms of fairness, as in, ‘why should one group be exempt from income tax but others must pay tax.’ The focus of those discussions are the businesses organized as Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs), partnerships and other business entities that are taxed as Individuals instead of Corporations.

There is another group that has been exempt from state income tax for decades – state and local government retirees’ pensions - but legislators and other tax-equity proponents have been oddly silent about the inequity of having private sector retirees pay income tax on their retirement benefits.

As explained in our 2011 publication of A Comprehensive Reform of the Kansas Public Employees’ Retirement System …

“KPERS benefits are not taxable for state income tax purposes. Employee contributions to the plan are after tax, so it’s appropriate that distributions from employee contributions would be not be taxable to avoid double taxation. However, KPERS members never have to pay state income tax on the majority of their pension benefits, which come from employer contributions and earnings on employer contributions.

The cost to taxpayers of providing government retirees with these tax-free benefits is substantial. The exact amount of pension distributions from employer contributions and the applicable tax rate for each recipient would have to be identified to accurately calculate the benefit, but we can make a reasonable estimate. As noted in Table 4, in order to fully fund the state/school plan based on the market value of plan assets, the employer contribution rate would be 15.26% and the total employer and employee contribution rate would be 19.33%; the employer rate is therefore 78.9% of the total. For the KP&F plan, the employer rate would be 75% of the total (19.8% for the employer, 26.32% in total). The following estimate of a $52 million income tax benefit to KPERS retirees is based on the lower employer rate of 75%.”

Then-KPERS executive director Glenn Deck said our estimation of the tax benefit was reasonable. The current tax benefit should be similar; marginal tax rates have declined but pension distributions were $1.329 billion in 2013.  But regardless of the actual amount, state and local government retirees are exempt from paying income tax on the portion of their pensions funded by taxpayers.

There is certainly a discussion to be had about fairness in taxation, but anyone proposing to increase or charge a tax based on fairness should be supportive of taxing government retirees the same as private sector retirees.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Sunday, April 26, 2015

A recent Kansas City Star editorial says that In the Kansas City area, jobs aren’t fleeing Missouri after Kansas tax cuts, but as is often the case, they set up a straw man argument (e.g., “fleeing” isn’t the issue) and make selective use of data to make their point. A conclusive analysis of the efficacy of tax reform will require many more years of data but there a number of encouraging early signs that the Star overlooks.

First of all, the Star doesn’t disclose that nonfarm jobs is the basis of their editorial, which is the total of government and private sector jobs.  Another Star editorial calling out Kansas Policy Institute a few days ago said it is “utter nonsense” to measure the health of an economy by growth in the private sector rather than government.  The Star hasn’t said whether they will allow a response at this writing, but we disagree with their position.  The money to fund government comes from the private sector; further, government can grow by overtaxing and suppressing private sector growth. 

It is hard to imagine that their failure to disclose the inclusion of government is a coincidence, but let’s keep the focus on nonfarm jobs for now in order to demonstrate another issue with their analysis.

The Star uses point-to-point comparisons of January 2014 and January 2015 to make their case that the Missouri side of the Kansas City Metro is growing faster than the Kansas side.  The problem with point-to-point comparisons is that one or both points can be unusual spikes or declines.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics also publishes average annual employment, which minimizes the impact of any single data point.

Shifting the analysis by one month and comparing December employment for 2013 and 2014 shows that Kansas outperformed Missouri 3.4 percent to 2.3 percent, the opposite of their position.  The Star says Missouri did better than Kansas since tax reform was enacted but they compare January 2013 and January 2015; December 2012 is the last month before tax reform was implemented and with that as the base, Kansas beat Missouri.

Kansas nonfarm jobs grew by 2.4 percent between December 2012 and January 2015 whereas Missouri increased by 1.9 percent. 

It’s also interesting that the Star used January data for their post-tax reform comparison rather than the most current March data; the Kansas margin is even wider, at 3.8 percent compared to 2.9 percent for Missouri.

The more stable comparisons of average annual employment also show Kansas to be the clear winner, whether using nonfarm jobs or the more pertinent measure of private sector employment.  Using nonfarm jobs, Kansas beat Missouri in 2013 by a margin of 2.1 percent to 0.2 percent and won again in 2014 by a margin of 2.7 percent to 1.3 percent.  Using private sector jobs, Kansas beat Missouri in 2013 by a margin of 2.5 percent to 0.5 percent and won again in 2014 by a margin of 3.0 percent to 1.7 percent. 

Moving now to private sector job growth, Kansas outperformed Missouri in the first two years since tax reform, 5.6 percent versus 2.2 percent.  Missouri is doing better than Kansas in the first quarter of 2015, with a preliminary lead of 3.8 percent to 2.7 percent but comparing average annual jobs for the first quarter of 2015 with the 2012 average still favors Kansas, 4.9 percent to 3.3 percent.

Kansas is showing even better progress on statewide job growth.  Private sector jobs only increased by 2.2% between 1998 and 2012 (average annual jobs for 1998 and 2012, seasonally adjusted); that growth rate put Kansas at #38 among the fifty states.  In 2013, private sector employment grew 1.6% and Kansas was ranked #27 in the nation. Last year Kansas moved up to #21 with growth of 1.9%.  

Kansas almost reached parity with its income-taxing peers last year, which is also a significant improvement in competitiveness.  Kansas private sector jobs grew at just 61% of its income-taxing peers’ 3.6% growth rate between 1998 and 2012, but 2013 and 2014 growth was at 78% and 95%, respectively.   Kansas job growth was also better in 2014 than the neighboring states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Job growth isn’t the only measure by which Kansas is outperforming Missouri.  The extent to which tax reform should be credited for the improvement cannot be determined but the shift in performance is quite noteworthy.

Private sector GDP isn’t available yet for 2014 but Kansas outperformed the 50-state average in 2013, as well as its income-taxing peers and the ten states with the highest state and local tax burden (as ranked by The Tax Foundation).  Kansas trailed each group in the fourteen years preceding tax reform. 

Rankings among neighboring states didn’t change; Kansas widened its lead over Missouri but was less competitive with other neighboring states in 2013.    One year certainly doesn’t qualify as a trend but it’s encouraging to see Kansas more competitive on a national scale.

Data on Personal Income growth is available for 2014, however, and Kansas has improved in the two years since tax reform was enacted on several measures.

Total personal income in Kansas (which includes dividends, interest, rent, wage and salary earnings, proprietor earnings, employer payments for payroll taxes, health care and retirement plus government transfer payments for government and the private sector) increased by 5.67% between 2012 and 2014, ranking #24 in the nation and much better than its #33 ranking between 1998 and 2012.   Kansas did slightly better than the states that tax income and was closer to the performance of the 50-state average.  Kansas outperformed Missouri and Nebraska and was more competitive with Oklahoma.

Kansas also shows improvement in Nonfarm Private Earnings, which includes all nonfarm private sector components of Personal Income.  Kansas trailed the 50-state average in the fourteen years prior to tax reform but its 9.5 percent growth over the last two years exceeds the 8.7 percent average of all states.  Kansas also outperformed Missouri, and while not unusual, the margin of victory has widened.   Kansas trailed Nebraska and Oklahoma in the past but has pulled ahead in the last two years.

None of this means that tax reform can be declared a success yet as one or two years is not near enough time to make such a judgement, but the early signs are encouraging.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Despite ‘sky is falling’ claims from high tax / big government proponents, the new Kansas revenue estimates show that tax revenue will continue to be well ahead of the inflation-adjusted historic trend.   

Tax revenue increased by 28.4 percent over the last ten year, or 4 points more than the increase in inflation (Midwest Urban Cities calculated on a fiscal year basis).  The April 2015 Consensus Revenue Estimates put total General Fund tax revenue at $5.743 billion this year and growing to $6.025 billion over the next two years.

Inflation would be 29.2 percent higher in FY 2017 than in FY 2004 if it continues at last year’s pace, but tax revenue would be 37.3 percent higher.   

The new revenue estimates are slightly lower but the reasons are perfectly understandable.  Corporate income tax receipts are 6.2 percent higher for the first nine month of the current year but estimates were reduced because the November estimate predicted even higher growth.  Retail sales tax receipts were also higher than the previous year but not as much as hoped and the severance tax estimate was lowered since collections are off as a result of lower oil prices.

Tax revenue might not be growing fast enough to keep up with legislators’ desire to increase spending but the gap between actual growth and inflation continues to widen.  That is a spending problem…not a revenue problem.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, April 15, 2015

“Where the Buffaloed Roam – An Ode to the Kansas Budget,” a film by Louisburg High School student Carson Tappan, is being featured at the Kansas City Film Festival.  It is billed as a ‘documentary’ but in reality, it merely presents a political viewpoint that doesn’t let facts get in the way of the story it wants to tell.

Mr. Tappan is to be commended for tackling the project and it is heartening to see a high school student take an interest in state budget issues.  He deserves an “A” for initiative and creativity but he fails in his goal to “make the problem clean and simple.”  I agreed to be interviewed for the film and provided Mr. Tappan with a great deal of data, some of which contradicts claims made by other participants but he chose not to use it.

I recently asked Mr. Tappan why he excluded pertinent facts I provided and he wrote back saying, “I did not exclude any facts that you provided, the interview was too long to keep it in its entirety.”  But as explained later in this piece, he did indeed exclude facts that contradict one of his own contentions.

Mr. Tappan and other participants in the film are certainly entitled to their opinion, and healthy discussions of alternate views are productive.  Different opinions can be evenly presented in a documentary format but “Where the Buffaloed Roam” goes out of its way to ridicule those who don’t agree with its premise that reducing taxes is a bad idea.

The film takes the position that states like Texas and Florida can manage without an income tax because they have oil and tourism revenue, but that is not the reason.  Texas, for example, could have all of the oil revenue in the nation and still have a high tax burden if it spent more.  Every state provides the same basket of basic services (education, social service, etc.) but some states do so at a much lower cost and pass the savings on in the form of lower taxes.

In 2012, the states that tax income spent 49 percent more per-resident providing services than the states without an income tax, and they don’t do it by pushing spending to local government; the ten states with the highest combined state and local tax burden spent 43 percent more per resident than the ten states with the lowest burdens.  Kansas, by the way, spent 37 percent more per resident than the states without an income tax.

While Kansas spent $3,409 per resident, Texas only spent $2,293 and Florida spent just $1,862 per resident.  Small states also spent less; New Hampshire (which doesn’t have an income tax or a state sales tax) spent just $2,455 per resident.  States that spend less, tax less.

The ‘oil and tourism’ objection is common so I gave this information to Mr. Tappan and discussed it in the interview.  He didn’t just ignore those facts…he actually made the ‘oil and tourism’ argument.

The ‘clean and simple’ explanation of the Kansas budget is that spending wasn’t adjusted when taxes were reduced.  Regardless of whether legislators agreed with tax reform, they and Governor Brownback should have reduced the cost of government.  Instead, they succumbed to pressure from the bureaucracy and special interests and continue to increase spending.  General Fund spending will set a new record this year and is proposed to rise even higher over the next two years.

Let’s put that in perspective.  Kansas’ 2012 spending of $6.098 billion was 37 percent higher than the per-resident spending of states without an income tax.  This year Kansas is expected to spend $191.5 million more than in 2012 and the budgets under consideration in the Legislature will add another $210.1 million in the next two years.

Kansas doesn’t need to be as efficient as states with low taxes to balance the budget…the state just needs to operate a few percentage points better.  Ask legislators or Governor Brownback if government operates efficiently and they will say, “of course not.”  Then ask what they are going to do about it.  This year, as in the past, the majority would rather raise taxes unnecessarily than stand up to the bureaucracy and special interests that profit from excess government spending.  That is the clean and simple explanation of what is wrong with the Kansas budget.

Former state budget director Duane Goossen tells a different story (but still won’t debate us in public where he can be called out).  He said revenue dropped three straight years during the recent recession and it appeared that revenue would decline for a fourth year, which prompted a sales tax increase that he attributes for the revenue turnaround.  But that’s not exactly true.  Mr. Goossen talked about tax revenue declines before carefully shifting to a discussion of revenue declines. Most people, and probably Mr. Tappan, wouldn’t catch that nuance but Mr. Goossen knows exactly what he was doing.

As shown in the above table, tax revenue only declined two years during the recession, in 2009 and 2010.  Total revenue did decline a third year and was projected down a fourth year but that was because of conscious decisions made by legislators to transfer tax money out of the General Fund.  The November 2009 Consensus Revenue Estimate predicted that tax revenues would increase for 2011, from $5.192 billion to $5.324 billion, and that estimate did not consider any sales tax increase.  Mr. Gossen is simply pushing a notion that tax increases are necessary.  Or, maybe tax increases are Mr. Gossen's preference but he would rather distract his interlocutor with obfuscation than simply state his true goal.

This tax revenue chart that appears in the film clearly attributes tax revenue growth between 2010 and 2012 to the 1 cent sales tax that began July 1, 2010 (it’s unknown whether Mr. Goossen or Mr. Tappan prepared it because there is no sourcing).  But this chart is yet another misrepresentation of the facts.

Data readily available from the Kansas Legislative Research Department shows that income taxes and other tax sources also increased in 2011 and 2012.  Income tax revenue increased by $560 million over the two years while retail sales taxes grew by $490 million and all other General Fund taxes increased by $125 million. 

Kansas certainly has a spending problem but tax revenue is actually running well ahead of inflation…even after income taxes were reduced.  General Fund tax revenue increased 28 percent between 2004 and 2014 while inflation was only 24 percent.  The November 2014 Consensus Revenue Estimate shows that tax revenue will continue to stay well ahead of inflation (assuming inflation continues at its current pace.  Tax revenue in 2017 would be 39 percent higher than 2004 but inflation would be 29 percent higher (again, assuming inflation maintains its current pace.)

The film also contains a number of false claims about school funding.  Heather Ousley, who is a member of an organization that actively campaigns for the defeat of legislative candidates who do not subscribe to the ‘just spend more’ philosophy of school funding, repeatedly claimed that schools are being defunded.  She also repeats the mantra that schools are being defunded so that public education can be privatized; she may believe that but having spent a lot of time working with legislators, I know that to be a false assumption.  Defenders of the status quo are fond of repeating the mantra, but it is nothing more than a scare tactic.

Schools are not being defunded and Mr. Tappan was provided with data from the Kansas Department of Revenue that contradicts claims made in the film.  Again, he chose not to use that information.  In reality, school funding will set a fourth consecutive record this year at $6.145 billion.  On a per-pupil basis, it’s $13,343 and will be the third consecutive record.   The facts are explained in greater detail in another blog post, which also shows that state funding is increasing this year under the new block grants.

There are other examples of factual inaccuracy in the film, but hopefully those set forth here sufficiently demonstrate that “Where the Buffaloed Roam” is not the documentary it purports to be but an artfully designed political statement.

Those who agree with the film’s position are certainly entitled to their view.  They should just be honest and say that they prefer higher taxes and the high spending that goes with it.

Note: KPI staff members Patrick Parkes and David Dorsey deserve credit for much of the research in this blog post.

Posted by David Dorsey on Wednesday, April 15, 2015
 

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years. 

All ten districts in Ottawa, Saline and McPherson counties will get more money through the block grants. Ottawa County schools will see a 5.7% increase during the three years of the program. North Ottawa’s increase will be 7.3% and Twin Valley will get 4.1% more. Saline County schools will get 6.4%, with Salina, by far the county’s largest district, set to receive 6.8% higher support. A collective 2.6% increase under block grants will go to the five McPherson County districts. Smoky Valley (4.2%) and Inman (3.9%) will get the biggest increases.

 A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & http://www.kansaspolicy.org/2015schoolfunding.pngInterest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.

http://www.kansaspolicy.org/perpupil98-15.png

 

Posted by David Dorsey on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

 

Contestant: “Alex, I’ll take ‘Media Bias’ for 200.”

Alex: “It’s what the news media calls a ‘snow day’ in Kansas.”

Contestant: “What is a budget cut?”

Alex: “Correct!”

 

Although to my knowledge that answer/question combination has never been on Jeopardy!, it certainly would be appropriate the way the media continues to misrepresent the state of education funding in the Sunflower State.

An article in Education Week and this similar one in the Huffington Post, both of which were published April 3, used sensationalized headlines and irresponsible reporting to contrive a false financial crisis for the state’s public schools. Both headlines, the Huffington Posts “Kansas Schools Will Close Early This Spring For Lack Of Funds” and Education Week’s “Funding Cuts Force Kansas Districts to End School Year Early,” even make it appear that all 286 school districts will be starting summer vacation early this year. The reality is that there are only two: Concordia (USD 333) and Twin Valley (USD 240) and the headlines are false.  It’s not a disastrous a financial picture that is precipitating a shorter school year, the districts are merely forgoing some unused snow days.

The Education Week piece cited this Salina Journal article to support their assertion that it is Governor Brownback’s late year funding cuts and the new block grant funding law (which restored those cuts) that have precipitated the early dismissal. But regardless of the misleading headline, the Salina Journal story gives a much different picture of the real reasons those districts chose to end their schools years ahead of the original schedule.

Concordia has chosen to cut six days from the current school calendar. Their buildings will close four days early and there will be no school two other days. However, contrary to the article’s premise, the Salina Journal piece did not quote Concordia Superintendent Bev Mortimer as using budget constraints as a reason, although both Education Week and the Huffington Post chose to make that inference in relying heavily from that article. Specifically, Superintendent Mortimer cited one reason for the decision is to provide a perk to the teachers. “We haven’t been able to give raises to teachers like we like. One thing we could give them is some time…It was one positive thing we could do for our staff.” And they are able to give teachers that time by cashing in their unused snow days. “We would have done some of these [snow]days anyway,” the superintendent said. “We might not have chosen to do all six of them.”

Mortimer did state, however, that the decision would save USD 333 about $30,000. To put that dollar figure in perspective, the district’s total budget for the current school year is in excess of $18 million, putting the savings at 0.2%. Furthermore, Concordia’s cash reserves at the beginning of the last two schools years have exceeded $800,000.

So much for a financial crisis.

Twin Valley’s situation is not unlike that of Concordia. That district decided to forgo 7.5 “discretionary days” as they call them and end the year on May 8 instead of May 20. As an example of sensationalistic reporting, Huffington Post implies the students are missing 12 days of schools. (Maybe they think kids in Kansas go to school on the weekends?)

“Discretionary days?” Sounds like more unused snow days schools build into their calendar. Although the Salina Journal quoted Twin Valley Superintendent Jan Neufeld as saying, “Twin Valley’s ‘financial status’ was among the reasons” for the decision, she “declined to guess how much the district would save” by ending the school year earlier. Again, it sounds like much more than just financial considerations. How can you blame a funding cut for ending the school early if you don’t know how much money it will save? Twin Valley also had healthy cash reserves in excess of half a million dollars each of the last two years.

These financial conditions provide a reality that is a far cry from Education Week’s claim that “education funding cuts are forcing two Kansas districts to end the school year early.” What the media outlets failed to report is that both districts will still meet state law requirements for the number of days or hours students will be in school for the year.

Also, the media has been spewing misinformation that the new block grant funding approach will result in a cut of dollars to education. As the table below shows, both districts are receiving increases this school year, not decreases. Concordia will get nearly $200,000 more than 2013-14 and Twin Valley will receive over $170,000 more. The impact statewide is similar. Record state aid to education will continue under the block grants to the tune of 5.6% additional money allocated to schools over a three year period.

 

So, is there any evidence that schools in Kansas are teetering on the edge of a fiscal cliff?

As Alex Trebek would say: “No, sorry.”
Posted by David Dorsey on Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years. 

 

Finney and Ford counties will both get significant increases from the block grant approach. The two Finney districts will get a combined increase of 6.5%. Garden City will gain 6.8% and Holcomb will get 4.4% more. Ford County schools will collectively get a 10.4% increase. Dodge City, by far the largest district will see an 11.4% raise, while Bucklin will get a small increase (0.5%) and Spearville’s funding will slightly decrease 1.4%.

A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & http://www.kansaspolicy.org/2015schoolfunding.pngInterest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.

http://www.kansaspolicy.org/perpupil98-15.png

Posted by David Dorsey on Monday, April 13, 2015
 

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years. 

 

All districts in both Reno and Harvey counties will get increased funding under the block grants. Reno County schools will collectively receive a 5.1% increase over the three year period. Hutchinson’s increase is the largest, scheduled to be 6.4%. Buhler will get the smallest increase (2.6%).

Harvey County schools will get 6.0% more. The only district to receive less than a 6% raise is Burton, which will get a 2.1% raise in funding under block granting.

A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & http://www.kansaspolicy.org/2015schoolfunding.pngInterest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.

http://www.kansaspolicy.org/perpupil98-15.png

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Monday, April 13, 2015

Payroll listings of 2014 earnings by employee name and position for eleven cities, seven counties and the Johnson County Parks and Recreation District are now available on KansasOpenGov.org.  The data is obtained each year through Open Records requests.

Kansas has more local government employees per 10,000 residents than all but one state (see page 16 here) and the cost of having so much local government is apparent in these payroll listings and the adjacent table of property tax increases for the largest cities in Johnson County and for the county itself. (A complete list of all counties and large cities can be found on pages 20-23 of the 2014 Kansas Green Book.) 

The next table lists salary figures of city managers and assistant or deputy managers that we’ve collected in Johnson County. The variance in Pay per Resident for the ‘CEO’ positions is striking, ranging from $0.38 for the Johnson County Manger to $4.04 for the Lenexa City Administrator.


The growth rates of full payroll costs for some cities and counties also vary considerably.  The following tables show payroll growth rates between 2013 and 2014.  We don’t have 2013 data for the Johnson County Parks and Recreation Department, but their 2014 payroll was $13,494,716.42.


 

Posted by David Dorsey on Friday, April 10, 2015

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years. 


All five Shawnee County districts will see an increase in state aid over the next three years. They will get a combined increase of 6.2%. Silver Lake gets the biggest boost with a 7.5% raise. The three Douglas County schools, likewise, will get an increase under the block grant system. Eudora will experience the biggest raise at nearly 10%. Collectively, the Douglas County schools will receive 5.5% more. Jefferson County schools will get almost 5% more. Oskaloosa leads the county’s six schools with 11.9% more than 2013-14. Perry is the only school that will get less money (-1.4%).

A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & http://www.kansaspolicy.org/2015schoolfunding.pngInterest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.

Posted by David Dorsey on Friday, April 10, 2015

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years.

Butler County schools will see a growth in state aid of 3.9% over the next three years through the new block grant funding system. Seven of the county’s nine districts will experience an increase. Rose Hill will receive the biggest at 7.5%. Andover and Bluestem will both get increases in excess of 5%. El Dorado (-0.5%) and Flinthills (-0.8%) will receive lower funding under the new law.

Schools in Sedgwick County will also see growth in state aid. Funding to those ten districts is scheduled to go up 5.4% over the next three years. Haysville and Goddard will both receive state aid increases of more than 10% through the block grants with Renwick close behind at 9.6%. Wichita, the state’s largest district will get 3.8% more. Only Mulvane (-1.6%) will see a decrease.

A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

http://www.kansaspolicy.org/2015schoolfunding.pngTotal aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & Interest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.

 

 

 

Posted by James Franko on Friday, April 10, 2015
Adapted from the foreward to KPI’s recent “Business Perceptions of the Economic Impact of State and Local Government Regulations” paper. Read the full paper here and check out KPI’s podcast discussion of the paper, the key findings, and related topics here.

When policy debates turn to job creation there is often scant detail beyond platitudes and talking points. “We need lower taxes.” “Targeted government investment is the name of the game.” “Create an environment in which all can succeed.” “Regulations need to be updated for the 21st Century.” Politicians from across the political spectrum offer bromides that serve their previously held beliefs while citizens and businesses struggle to decide who is right.

The recent Wichita debate on a new city sales tax...not to mention local elections this week…Kansas’ move to lower income taxes, and the national debate on a recovery that goes in fits and starts all circle around the same topic – what does it take to create more jobs and provide more opportunity. Taxes and regulations warrant the most coverage and comment in this conversation, as they are most commonly cited by businesses. While some literature exists on the national regulatory regime, there is very little specific research on state and local regulations. This is even more-true of Kansas and the greater Wichita area.

We recently partnered with Wichita State University’s Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs to take the pulse of local businesses and their interactions with regulators at the state and local level. Under the guidance of Nancy McCarthy Snyder, Ph.D., the research team conducted several focus groups with local business associations to better understand their specific experiences with the regulations and the people who enforce them. The groups and businesses interviewed provided a good cross-section of the Wichita economy and allow for the drawing of solid insights and conclusions.

In short, businesses weren’t all that concerned about the regulations themselves. Instead the guidelines and rules are sometimes less than transparent, too much focus is put on means rather than ends, and regulations aren’t equally applied across an industry…or across individual regulators. Across industries and focus group sessions the key themes were clear – give businesses transparency in what regulations are being applied, how they are employed, provide flexibility in meeting those goals, and allow an opportunity for compliance.

Almost across the board in the findings, businesses willingly adapt and comply with regulations if they are transparent and accountable. While the paper explored state regs as well, the situation in SCKS offers a chance to “reset” the regulatory framework in the region. The sales tax debate remains fresh in the mind of citizens and Tuesday’s municipal elections confirmed that job creation and economic growth remain paramount.

Individuals and communities will always land on different places along the continuum of appropriate regulation. And, a give and take will always exist between regulators and the regulated. Those two truisms, however, should do nothing to undermine the need for regulations to be applied equally, based on clear rules and interpretations, and to give each business an opportunity to comply.

This project is a starting point from which to gain insight and guide future policy debates in Wichita and Kansas. In fact, many of the business leaders who took part in the focus groups would say these same trends are evident in other jurisdictions and with federal agencies as well. Give them transparency, accountability, and space and they will set about building a business. There is sometimes very little sympathy for business owners, but let’s not forget that they employ our neighbors, help us earn a living, provide for our children, and allow us the opportunity to find meaning and dignity in work.

The staff at the Hugo Wall School was great and should be considered a vital part of the local community. The project wouldn’t have come together without their work.

Posted by David Dorsey on Wednesday, April 8, 2015
 

Now that March Madness is behind us, both in basketball and legislative terms, a look back reveals two of the most important school issues were as conspicuously untouched as a Greg Holland fastball. I am speaking, of course, about the elimination of Common Core State Standards and creating a viable public charter school system.  So much attention and effort went into replacing the excessively complicated funding formula (which sorely needed to be scrapped since some say there is only one person in the state who truly understands all the factors), an approach which proved to be highly inelastic to the changing needs of our student population. Also, as I pointed out in a recent blog much time and energy has been needlessly expended on the spurious issue of teacher collective bargaining. All this, while so much is surfacing across the country that 1) questions Common Core and 2) demonstrates the strength and success of the public charter school movement. Yet Kansas only watches, content with education status quo.

Common Core State Standards

This issue is a real head-scratcher, especially in light of what transpired recently in the House Education Committee.  Last month the committee debated HB 2292, a bill that would have eliminated Kansas’s version of Common Core – the College and Career Ready Standards (CCRS). The bill and its subsequent amendments failed, leaving the CCRS intact. What’s puzzling is it was clear a majority of the committee members wanted the CCRS repealed, but failed to do so because they couldn’t agree on how to eliminate and replace them.  This comes at a time when the questions surrounding Common Core are broadening.

In a just-published article in Education Week, the initial winner of the $1 million Global Teacher Prize (dubbed the Nobel Prize of teaching) is advising prospective teachers to stay away from teaching in public schools because of Common Core. Nancy Atwell, the award recipient and a language arts teacher at a private school in Maine says “[t]he new common core curriculum and the tests that accompany it are tending to treat teachers as mere technicians. [Teachers] open the box and they read the script, and that's not what good teaching is about. It's an intellectual enterprise, and that's been stripped from it by the current climate."

Some of the concern among those expressed by house committee members was what schools would do about curriculum if the CCRS rug was pulled out from under them. This discussion was being made concurrently with a published report about how poorly the most popular math curricula are aligned with Common Core. According to EdReports.org, 17 of the 20 most popular “math series reviewed were judged as failing to live up to claims that they are aligned to the common core.” Interestingly, the only series that is fully aligned was written after Common Core became part of the education landscape. So it appears if Common Core went down like a Kelvin Herrera strike-out victim, Kansas school districts wouldn’t be burdened with having to purchase a new math series because chances are overwhelming that the one they are using now doesn’t align with Common Core anyway.

The irony in both these examples is that Bill Gates, who was a principal driver of Common Core, both lauded the award given to Ms. Atwell and primarily funded the math curriculum study. Hmmm….

Charter Schools

Unlike Common Core, no one in Kansas seems particularly interested in improving our dismal public charter school climate.

 How dismal is it?

Another reminder came recently from the Center for Education Reform’s Survey of America’s Charter Schools 2014. Kansas not only received an “F” but repeated the distinction of having the lowest score of the 43 states (including D.C.) that have a public charter school law. Note: the good news for public charter school supporters is that Alabama just passed their first charter school law. The bad news is that means Kansas will probably drop to 44th next year.

Some lowlights from the Kansas charter school narrative “report card”:

  • No independent or multiple authorizers

  • No appeal process for denial of charter school application

  • No teacher freedom – teachers are considered employees of the district

  • Student funding – funding not included in charter law, leaving it entirely to the discretion of the school district “which ensures inequitable funding”

  • No additional funds for facilities

  • “Kansas has consistently had one of the weakest charter laws in the country and the law is often considered one in name only. Charters are not separate, independent public schools, but operate more like alternative district schools.”

The Kansas charter school law is so weak that in an analysis recently released by the National Alliance for Charter Schools, Kansas doesn’t have enough charter school students to appear in the rankings.

The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO), a Stanford University-based group that regularly studies charter schools, just released a report on the performance of public charter schools in urban areas. Here are some of the positive findings:

  • Urban charter schools in the aggregate provide significantly higher levels of annual growth in both math and reading compared to their TPS [traditional public schools] peers.

  • Learning gains for charter school students are larger by significant amounts for Black, Hispanic, low-income, and special education students in both math and reading.

  • The 41 urban charter regions have improved results at both ends of the quality spectrum: they have larger shares of schools that are better than TPS alternatives and smaller shares of under-performing schools.

One of the arguments often put forth by the anti-charter school crowd is that Kansas has too many rural schools for public charter schools to exist as a viable alternative. Even if you buy that contention, and there is evidence to the contrary, what about our underperforming urban districts? Over one-third of all K-12 students are in the seven largest school districts, all in urban areas. As I’ve stated in this venue before, public charter schools could play a significant role in reducing the achievement gap among the low-income and minority students, a contention supported in the CREDO study.

But in Kansas, the public charter school movement garners about as much attention as the ninth inning of a blow-out.

Fortunately, there is still time to address these issues. As the “veto session” approaches - just like in April baseball – hope springs eternal. The legislature can still do what’s best by students and parents: find an acceptable way to release Kansas from the burden of CCRS and put public charter schools on a competitive footing with traditional public schools. As the Royals proved last year, just being competitive can go a long way toward success.
Posted by Dave Trabert on Saturday, April 4, 2015

Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants.  How can that be?  Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.

Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year.  The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year.  KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years. 

Johnson County schools will collectively receive 5.4% more over three years – and most districts will see an increase each year.  State funding to USD 229 Blue Valley will dip by 0.5% this year but then increase the following two years and finish slightly higher than this year.  Total funding this year for Blue Valley will likely increase, however, as the district raised its local property tax collections.  Gardner Edgerton will see small declines in 2016 and 2017 after a large increase this year but still finishes ahead by 10.3%.

Every district in Wyandotte County will receive an increase each year and state funding under the block grants will result in a collective increase of 9.5% over three years.

A list of all Kansas school districts can be downloaded here.

Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year.  The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year.  KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond & Interest aid.  Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion.  A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.

Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports.  The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.


Posted by David Dorsey on Friday, April 3, 2015

The Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s latest scare tactic on education funding is filled with demonstrably inaccurate data which they use to make false claims about tax reform and the efficacy of education spending.  KCEG has a long history of making inaccurate claims and declining requests for documentation (here, here, and here for example) and this time is no different. 

In Kansas Prioritizes Tax Cuts Over Kids, KCEG says a reduction in state revenue has caused cuts to education and attempts to send the message that not making even bigger ‘investments’ in education means the State doesn’t care about student outcomes.  To solidify that contention by making it appear universal, KCEG points to Wisconsin as another state that cut taxes (income and property taxes) and likewise, aid to education.  But as it turns out, the only thing these assertions have in common is that neither is based in reality.  Here is how their false allegations stack up to the facts.

1. KCEG claim: Kansas general aid per pupil is down 2.6% (about $129) between 2013 and 2014, a percentage that is  proportionate to reduction in state revenues.

Fact: According to the Kansas Department of Education website (official data) “General State Aid Per Pupil” (a KSDE definition) INCREASED $13 between 2013 and 2014 as shown in the table below (and all aid per pupil increased $179).

 2. KCEG claim: Wisconsin cut taxes which led to cuts in education spending. General aid per pupil was cut by $36 from 2013 to 2014. 

Fact: A quick look at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction website indicates that statewide revenue per pupil (they use the term “member”) shows an INCREASE of $193 between 2013 and 2014 as shown in the table below.

And here is another fact that KCEG conveniently omitted:  2013-14 was the second consecutive year of record funding in Kansas K-12 education with $12,959 per pupil, which totals nearly $6 billion in revenue. That trend will continue with the new block grant education funding set to start next year. As KPI pointed out in this blog, total funding to education is poised to set yet another record in 2015-16.

So much for letting the truth get in the way of a highly charged contention.

KCEG relied on tax revenue data from the Rockefeller Institute of Government (RIG) and education spending data from a study by the Center for Budget and Public Policy (CBPP) to make their claims.  KPI reached out to KCEG, RIG, and CBPP to source and verify their data. We received no response from KCEG or CBPP, but the director of RIG stated the 2.6% reduction in revenues was likely a misinterpretation of their data. So, instead of citing original source data from Kansas state government agencies, KCEG chose to cherry-pick and manipulate data from outside sources in order to fit their narrative. And that narrative includes the false choice that lower government spending automatically precipitates a lower quality of service.  By the way, CBPP is also notorious for making false and unsubstantiated claims; see here and here for examples.

KCEG has even gone a step farther by turning this mantra into a scare tactic. They declare less money will lead to lower educational outcomes because there will be less money to the classroom. So why are the students/teachers/classroom always the targets of the fear mongers? Why always the threat of teacher layoffs? Why not administrators? Could it be that it’s not as emotionally compelling to say an assistant principal, or a curriculum director, or even a communications officer may be let go? It is well documented that schools choose not to operate efficiently, so it’s always the students who are made human budget shields.

The idea that more money leads to better outcomes simply does not stand up to scrutiny. Much has been written to discredit that claim. Perhaps this quote from a Heritage Foundation study says it best: “Continuous spending increases have not corresponded with equal improvement in American educational performance.” NAEP reading and math scores have remained flat, as have ACT scores, and quoting KCEG in a different context: “[W]e don’t have to go any further than our own backyard to see that.”

Perhaps it’s time KCEG just acknowledge their affinity for high taxes and ineffective spending and stop pretending to present data-driven conclusions.

KPI has a history or reaching out to KCEG to have a public discussion on the issues. We again welcome that chance to provide the facts about education spending so Kansans can come to their own conclusions. We invite and are willing to host KCEG to an open debate on this issue.
Posted by Patrick Parkes on Monday, March 30, 2015

Revised data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that Kansas had better private sector job growth in 2014 than neighboring states of Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  Colorado was the only neighboring state that did better, as it has done for thirteen of the last sixteen years.  Kansas also outperformed Iowa and Arkansas, both of which had job growth of 1.5%.  BLS annually updates data for prior years.

 

Kansas also outperformed Missouri in the Kansas City Metro Area, with job growth of 3.0% on the Kansas side of the metro vs. 1.7% on the Missouri side.  See here for more information on the metro comparison.


A longer-term look at the data shows that Kansas achieved private-sector job growth of just 2.2% in the 14 years from 1998 through 2012. This growth rate amounted to just 61% of the 3.64% job growth its income-taxing peer states experienced.  Yet, in the two years post-tax reform, from December 2012 to December 2014, Kansas has become much more competitive, achieving private-sector job growth of 3.71%, or almost 88% of the growth its income-taxing peers achieved. 

 


 

Check back soon for our next jobs update, in which we will examine job growth in Kansas for the first quarter of 2015.     

 

Posted by Dave Trabert on Sunday, March 29, 2015

New jobs data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that private sector jobs grew at a much faster pace in the Kansas City, KS metro than the Kansas City, Missouri metro.  The Kansas side of the metro area gained 3.0% private sector jobs, which was better than any year since 1998.  The Missouri side of the metro grew by 1.7%.

Private sector job growth was also better in Kansas in 2013.  Over the last two years – post tax reform – private sector jobs increased by 5.6% on the Kansas side of the metro and only 2.2% on the Missouri side.

Comparisons reflect the change in the average annual number of jobs.

Coming Monday – statewide comparisons of private sector job growth for Kansas and neighboring states.

Posted by David Dorsey on Thursday, March 26, 2015

KPI has created a state public education employment metrics report for FY 2014 and the file can be accessed here. The file contains employment totals and also five categories of pupil-per-employee ratios. Here are some highlights and analysis. 

Pupils per classroom teacher

The employment metrics file shows considerable variation among the districts when it comes to the number of pupils per classroom teacher. Weskan, with an enrollment of just 92 students has a ratio of 6.2 pupils for every classroom teacher, while Spring Hill with 2,850 students has 20.5 students for every classroom teacher. Among the state’s largest districts, Shawnee Mission has the highest ratio at 17.9 and Salina is the lowest at 14.6. The state median is 13, while the mean is 15.4 pupils per classroom teacher.  (KSDE excludes special education and reading specialists from their definition of classroom teaches.).

These ratios are considerably smaller than what is typically reported as classroom size. It is impossible to make an exact comparison because KSDE does not keep data on classroom size.

Administrative manager employment

As the table below shows, there is a wide range of pupils per manager* across the state. Manhattan-Ogden (USD 383) carries the distinction of having the most top-heavy administration among the state’s 20 largest districts with a ratio of 96.2 pupils per manager. Contrast that with Andover (USD 385), which has 238.7 pupils-per-manager. Put another way, USD 383 has 5% more students, but 160% more administrators than USD 385.

Among the biggest districts, Shawnee Mission is the most efficient with nearly twice as many pupils per manager than fellow Johnson County district Blue Valley and more than twice as many pupils per manager than Topeka. Shawnee Mission claims an even smaller administrative footprint in FY 2015 in favor of more money going toward instruction.  

The following table summarizes the ranges among all districts on a per-pupil basis through the low, high, and median values for each metric.