A commentary in the Wichita Eagle
by USD 259 school board member Connie Dietz attempts to blame Governor Brownback and the current legislature for school closings and is loaded with false information.
It is disingenuous at best to blame school closings on the current governor and legislature when the changes to school funding, which were prompted by a serious recession, began under a previous governor and legislature.
And the overall impact of the changes has not been even close to those claimed by Ms. Dietz. Neither state funding nor overall funding have been 'cut back to 1999 levels' and she knows it. Ms. Dietz is only referencing a piece of state funding. The truth, as provided by the Kansas Dept. of Education and Wichita financial reports, is that:
- State support of public education in 1999 was $2.04 billion; this year it is expected to be $3.2 billion.
- Total taxpayer support increased from $3.2 billion in 1999 to $5.7 billion this year.
- KSDE online records for individual districts only go back to 2002 but show state aid per-pupil for Wichita was $4,812; last year it was $7,092.
- Total taxpayer aid to Wichita schools was $8,393 per-pupil in 2002; last year it was $13,069.
When governments talk about budget cuts, they are most often talking about reducing their plans to spend more rather than actually spending less money. According to data provided by KSDE, the Wichita district has spent more money every single year. The pace of the increase certainly slowed in the past few years but they are still spending more money every single year.
Even their current operating expenses have increased. The first column below shows total spending for USD 259 from the Kansas Comparative Performance and Fiscal System; the second column shows current spending, with all Capital Outlay and Debt Service removed (all figures in millions):
2005 $422.4 $383.4
2006 $468.1 $429.7
2007 $527.1 $471.3
2008 $552.0 $507.6
2009 $573.9 $523.5
2010 $585.5 $524.3
2011 $603.8 $526.9
The recession certainly created a lot of unfortunate challenges for everyone but taxpayers and parents deserve honesty from elected officials, not political rhetoric and false information.