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"School choice, it seems, should be a no-brainer. Why not give families vouchers, allowing them to make free choices for their children’s education? There’s a reason increasing numbers of inner-city activists in places like Chicago and Washington, D.C., are fighting for charter schools and voucher programs. They know choice would be better for their kids. They know the government has failed them."

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/08/14/the_crazy_world_of_public_schools_123654.html


The Crazy World of Public Schools | RealClearPolitics
www.realclearpolitics.com
Are America’s vast, sprawling, powerful government agencies really all that bad? Left-leaning New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, in a recent series of columns and blog posts, has...
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 15:51:55 +0000
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LIKE if you agree with the 80% of Kansans who believe that employees should have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union. http://www.employeefreedomweek.com/survey-results/


Survey Results | Employee Freedom Week
www.employeefreedomweek.com
National Employee Freedom Week has released a series of scientific surveys to find out how many union members want to leave their union and gauging the public’s support for employee freedom. The results were surprising.
Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:16:37 +0000

Kansas school funding has been increasing
www.washingtonpost.com
The Aug. 1 news article “In Kansas, a deep-red ‘experiment,’ ” about Kansas’s tax reform, provided incomplete data on school funding. The base state aid data used to show a decline in school funding r...
Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:27:30 +0000
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Posted by Todd Davidson on Thursday, February 28, 2013
A new report, The School Staffing Surge, highlights the tremendous growth in K-12 non-instructional employment throughout the 50 states.  The report, published by The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, pulls data from the National Center of Education Statistics to show how employment of administrators and other staff has grown 46% since 1992 while employment of teachers has grown 32%, between 1992 and 2009.  The report then estimates how much each money each state could have saved or used to increase teacher salaries.

Here are the highlights for Kansas:

  • Enrollment increased 5% while Non-teaching staff increased 43% between 1992 and 2009.
  • Kansas would be spending $340 million less per year if non-teaching staff had grown with student enrollment (5%) instead of 43% between 1992 and 2009
  • If that money had been spent on teachers, the average salary would increase by more than $10,000
2012 totals, available at KansasOpenGov.org, show Kansas employees 34,075 just a bit more than the 33,785 non-teacher employees.  And when you measure employment against full time equivalent enrollment, there are just 6.7 students for every full time employee.

Posted by James Franko on Monday, February 25, 2013
The debate about whether Kansas should expand Medicaid only now seems to be heating up and reaching the public consciousness (here and here). Better late than never, I guess.

Amidst this debate are different (competing?) studies of what it may cost to expand Medicaid. We released a study after the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was signed into law but before the U.S. Supreme Court determined the individual mandate was a tax and allowed states the choice of expanding Medicaid, the Kansas Health Institute released a study last December, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment did likewise earlier this month.

The authors of those studies gathered last week to discuss their findings and compare methodologies, projections, etc. The event was sponsored by KPI and KHI and also included a representative from KDHE.

The best moment of the event  may have been when the author of our study, Jagadeesh Gokhale, Ph.D., offered his projection of what could happen when the ACA is fully implemented with a simple, "Utter chaos!"

Aside from that, there was a lot of discussion regarding how much of an impact the different health care/Medicaid cost-drivers would impact Medicaid costs for Kansas. Keep in mind there is the choice of expanding Medicaid and estimated increases now that most Kansans will be subject to the individual mandate...some people were eligible for Medicaid pre-ACA but didn't sign up while in the future they'll likely join Medicaid to avoid paying the tax, er, fine.

Jagadeesh has written a bit more about how he arrived at his estimate and how this was driven by historical cost increases - it will be published shortly in a follow-up analysis - but check out a sneak preview below.

In the meantime, it is important to examine any gov't program in light of the benefits AND costs. More people may have access to gov't-run health care in the form of Medicaid (if eligibility is expanded) but the costs are staggering - $4.1 billion in extra costs to Kansas under the ACA in the next 10 years and $625 million if the decision is made to expand. These issues must be viewed for their impact, not simply good intentions.

It should be noted that other private and public agencies have also estimated the financial impact of the Mandate Effect and Medicaid Expansion Effect on the Kansas General Budget. Examples are those by the Kansas Health Institute, the Lewin Group, Urban Institute, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Estimates for the number of currently eligible but not Medicaid-enrolled individuals range from 30,000 (Kansas Health Institute, December, 2012) to 162,000 (also KHI, December 2012, alternative study). The KPI estimate of this group of potential new enrollees into Medicaid is 102,000 individuals—well within the range of other estimates. In terms of new enrollments from Medicaid Expansion, most estimates fall within the range of 100,000 (Kansas Health Institute, December 2012) to 200,000 (Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, latest available but undated). The KPI study’s estimate of newly eligible enrollees is 130,000 by 2023, also well within the range of other estimates.

However, the KPI study’s total annual dollar cost projections from the two effects of ACA are larger than those of other studies. The key reason for this is that other studies’ cost estimates are calibrated based on a per-person cost from a given year in the past; it is a global estimate—applied to all new enrollees regardless of their demographic (gender/age/income/health) attributes—and it is either kept constant or increased at a fixed, relatively low growth rate. The KPI study does not “flat-line” the cost per person to be used to calculate future expenditure increments from Mandate Effect or the Medicaid Expansion Effect.

Rather, historical trends in Medicaid costs per person are (a) differentiated by demographic/age/income group and (b) future years’ costs are based on extrapolating the historical trend for each separate category of enrollees. This is a methodologically sounder approach to making projections of future Medicaid expenditure increments from the two types of new enrollees that the ACA’s individual mandate and Medicaid expansion (if adopted) would trigger. It’s key advantages are, first, the implicit assumption that the same forces that escalated (or reduced) costs per person for particular categories of enrollees in the past would continue to influence cost growth in the future. Second, those cost rates per enrollee are appropriately weighted by the trend-determined shares of future enrollees by demographic (gender/age/income/health) type. A brief perusal of the historical data suggests that per-person costs have been growing at a rapid rate in Kansas for most categories of enrollees.

Non-incorporation of historical information on the rate of cost growth (assuming, instead, a lower cost rate per person) and not weighting the cost rate according to the size of the projected new-enrollee group by the other studies cited above is the most likely explanation of why those projections of future Kansas Medicaid expenditure increases from both types of new enrollees are considerably smaller than KPI’s projections.
Posted by Todd Davidson on Friday, February 22, 2013

During a life growing up in Kansas, and getting a public education’s worth of state history, I remember hearing somewhere that Kansas counties were carved up so a Horseone day horse ride could get citizens to a county courthouse.  Those boundaries, some dating to 1855, still determine who will be providing fire, police, judicial, and other services to Kansas citizens to this day.  Because of the ancient county lines and numerous municipalities, Kansas has one general purpose government for every 1,445.1 residents, according to data from the Census Bureau.  Only the Dakotas have fewer residents per government entities.  

The 105 counties and 1,894 municipalities pay administrators, judges, lawmakers, and other employees; resulting in Kansas having the 3rd highest number of public employees per 1000 residents.  In the age of the Internet, Kansas has a payroll clerk and sheriff every 30 miles.  The inefficiencies and duplicative public employees manifest themselves in higher taxes.

Kansas consistently performs poorly in tax rankings due to high property tax burdens.  The 2012 Tax Foundation study Location Matters, found Kansas has the 3rd highest tax burden for mature businesses and the 2nd highest tax burden for new businesses.  The study cited high property taxes for Kansas’ poor showing.  A 2011 study by the Minnesota Taxpayers Association found Iola, Kansas had the highest effective tax rate on rural commercial property taxes and the 2nd highest rural industrial property taxes of all the rural communities examined.

Over 150 years of innovation would now allow Kansas to redraw the map and take advantage of enormous economies of scale.  This doesn't necessarily mean the State should force consolidation. While that option is worthy of serious consideration, shared services or even unified governments (e.g. Wyandotte and Kansas City) offer ways to increase efficiency, lower the burden of government and make Kansas more competitive.

 

State   2012 Population    General Purpose Governments     Citizens Per General Purpose Government
North Dakota                            699,628                           1,724                           405.8
South Dakota                            833,354                           1,284                           649.0
Kansas                        2,885,905                           1,997                       1,445.1
Nebraska                        1,855,525                           1,042                       1,780.7
Minnesota                        5,379,139                           2,726                       1,973.3
Vermont                            626,011                              294                       2,129.3
Maine                        1,329,192                              504                       2,637.3
Iowa                        3,074,186                           1,046                       2,939.0
Wisconsin                        5,726,398                           1,922                       2,979.4
Indiana                        6,537,334                           1,666                       3,924.0
Missouri                        6,021,988                           1,381                       4,360.6
Alaska                            731,449                              162                       4,515.1
Illinois                      12,875,255                           2,831                       4,548.0
Wyoming                            576,412                              122                       4,724.7
Pennsylvania                      12,763,536                           2,627                       4,858.6
Ohio                      11,544,225                           2,334                       4,946.1
Arkansas                        2,949,131                              577                       5,111.1
Michigan                        9,883,360                           1,856                       5,325.1
New Hampshire                        1,320,718                              244                       5,412.8
Montana                        1,005,141                              183                       5,492.6
Oklahoma                        3,814,820                              667                       5,719.4
West Virginia                        1,855,413                              287                       6,464.9
Idaho                        1,595,728                              244                       6,539.9
Mississippi                        2,984,926                              379                       7,875.8
Kentucky                        4,380,415                              536                       8,172.4
Alabama                        4,822,023                              528                       9,132.6
Utah                        2,855,287                              274                     10,420.8
New York                      19,570,261                           1,603                     12,208.5
Louisiana                        4,601,893                              364                     12,642.6
Oregon                        3,899,353                              277                     14,077.1
Georgia                        9,919,945                              688                     14,418.5
Tennessee                        6,456,243                              437                     14,774.0
North Carolina                        9,752,073                              653                     14,934.3
South Carolina                        4,723,723                              315                     14,995.9
New Jersey                        8,864,590                              587                     15,101.5
Delaware                            917,092                                 60                     15,284.9
New Mexico                        2,085,538                              136                     15,334.8
Colorado                        5,187,582                              333                     15,578.3
Texas                      26,059,203                           1,468                     17,751.5
Massachusetts                        6,646,144                              356                     18,668.9
Connecticut                        3,590,347                              179                     20,057.8
Washington                        6,897,012                              320                     21,553.2
Virginia                        8,185,867                              324                     25,265.0
Rhode Island                        1,050,292                                 39                     26,930.6
Maryland                        5,884,563                              180                     32,692.0
Florida                      19,317,568                              476                     40,583.1
Arizona                        6,553,255                              106                     61,823.2
California                      38,041,430                              539                     70,577.8
Nevada                        2,758,931                                 35                     78,826.6
Hawaii                        1,392,313                                   4                   348,078.3
District of Columbia                            632,323                                   1                   632,323.0
Sources:
Population: http://www.census.gov/popest/data/state/totals/2012/index.html 
Governments: http://www.census.gov/govs/go/ 
Posted by Dave Trabert on Friday, February 15, 2013

The following is a representative sample of recommendations submitted to the Governor's School Efficiency Task Force.  Submissions were made by school employees, parents and involved members of the community. The recommendations do not necessarily represent the views of Kansas Policy Institute.

Athletics

  • The last priority in our district is educating kids. It’s all about sports and fun. Our scores are some of the worst in the state. When it comes to educating the kids, it’s nickel and dime. When it comes to sports, money is no object. 
  • Focus the money on education and not on sports! Cut back on the types of sports. Leave most of the sports programs to the communities! Have intramural sports as part of Physical Education and improve those programs. The kids that need to move and exercise are not going out for sports. 
  • No study of our school system’s inefficiencies can be complete without a top-to-bottom analysis of how sports programs have come to dominate our curriculum and spending priorities. Sports are the curriculum and school work is the extra-curricular activity. Last week in our school involved about 30 hours devoted to traveling or attending sporting events. In small schools, this effectively shuts down the school for up to half of the day on any day involving away games. This needs to be addressed at the state level so as to mandate limits on the number of games per week, per year, etc. A cost-benefit analysis should be completed regarding what is being spent on sports versus what our “payoff” is toward educating students. 
  • When new funds became available after the lawsuit settlement some years ago, the local district spent a large amount of money to totally renew athletic facilities. The next two years, they added more sports programs. When funds were reduced the following year, the district discussed reducing spending on arts and music. No mention was ever made of cutting any of the new sports. 

Contracting/Purchasing

  • Contrary to state law, our district does not seek competitive bids for capital projects. They have a standing agreement with professional firms that design facilities (such as libraries and schools). The district contends that these services do not require competitive bidding since the work is not part of a “capital project” but is instead a “professional service.” The district has on multiple occasions entered into lease-purchase agreements with a private developer absent competitive bidding. These contracts include construction of new buildings and a multi-school contract for expansions. 
  • Roofing projects in Kansas should be open for alternate materials. In several districts, administrations use single source material suppliers masquerading as roofing consultants. 
  • Our district remodeled a school for a large sum of money. The district now heats/cools the entire building for a single police officer because there are no students there anymore. 
  • The district in my area conducts a mandatory spend-down every year on routine supplies (markers, erasers, pens, pencils, etc.). The justification? “If we don't spend it, we will lose the money.” 

Organization/ Logistics

  • We have too many school districts with overlapping functions. This is partly due to having so many jurisdictions. Especially where school districts are close to each other, services and administration can be consolidated. This does not have to mean closing the schools—just sharing things like specialists, principles, and other administrative staff. 
  • I feel that there are too many counties that have a number of small school districts. I feel that a county “central office” with a superintendent and district-level support personnel could save money. The various towns could still have their buildings with building-level personnel, but each district would not be top heavy with central office personnel. My small county is a perfect example of this inefficiency. There are too many school districts here! I was a teacher for 30 years teaching in 6 different districts, and I saw the same inefficiency in other counties. 
  • Our school district has been very efficient with spending. When the cuts first began we had community meetings to lay out all the spending within the district. The pubic had the opportunity to prioritize areas of wasteful spending. Things that were cut/reduced/postponed from the budget were staff (teachers, aides, cooks, coaches, administrative assistants, etc.); supplemental contracts; purchasing of school vehicles, buses, and curriculum; salaries; 5 days from the school calendar; summer school weeks; after school at-risk programs; field trips; classroom supply spending; educational spending that wasn’t benefiting all students; building maintenance projects; utility costs; sports programs (changed to a pay-to-play activity where parents had to foot the total bill). 
  • KSDE should consider a single statewide student information management system. Now, every district must submit data annually for funding. Those districts each are spending between $4.50 and $12.50+ annually for these SIS systems. Plus, KSDE is using another large database to collect all of the information sent by the districts. Several districts have employees dedicated all year or a large part of the year to accomplish the checking and uploading of information. Other states have proven that a single system provides the districts with a way to save by having the state pay for a single system and take that money out of the per student amount assigned to the district. Plus, KSDE could get information much more frequently than once a year. Statewide systems have proven to save money. The argument that the districts would not approve is no longer true as every district is looking to be more efficient and save money. 

Personal/Human Resources

  • We now have two teacher leaders and one assessment manager. This used to be one job! Our district is very administrative-heavy, with little teacher support. Teachers have too many administrators that require extra reporting, email-answering, and additional duties! Cut these positions before cutting any classroom teachers. Some administrators leave at 3:30 or before every day. Most teachers have so much to do that they have to come in early and stay late just to stay afloat. Even the principal rarely works an 8-hour day! This lack of leadership (do as I say, but not as I do) hurts our school and causes a hostile environment for all. Our district is way too top-heavy. For example, we have an administrative employee of the district who stops in at our school to check in on his son, sit in with teachers, and offer advice. There are so many hard-working employees, but our principal (and teacher leader) do not lead by example, which is sad.
  • Our district has maximized efficiency. We extended the school day by 30 minutes and shortened the school year by 14 days. We moved from two building-level media specialists to one district media specialist. We eliminated a maintenance staff position, a custodial staff position, and a food service staff position. We eliminated a rural bus route and after-school activity routes. We eliminated the in-town bus route. We reduced three counselor positions to two counselor positions. We moved from a block schedule to a traditional schedule. We blended middle school and high school. We have changed staffing, done fuel contracting (for our SPED cooperative), used TEEN video teaching network, changed SPED, reduced transportation, and optimized HVAC controls. We used EPM for business operations like payroll, leave, overtime, mandatory direct deposit, transportation, etc. We did an ESG feasibility study. We use ESSDACK for health insurance, PD, state bid list, etc. We also use paperless board meetings (via Blackboard).
  • We are strongly encouraged to send our paperwork to the central office to be copied. This costs us time and we pay this person a full time wage to do something that most teachers would rather do ourselves. Vocational money is also not spent on classroom/supplies/field trips but is mostly spent on salaries.
  • Administrators do not make teachers modify, take attendance, do their jobs, etc. Then they turn around and put more students in the good teacher’s class, therefore making her job harder. Let’s start having the same expectations for all teachers. Administrators need to speak up and start holding all teachers to the same standard. I'm also tired of coaches coming in for sports—they should be teachers first, coaches second. 
Posted by Todd Davidson on Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Tax Myths Debunked, a rigorous study by economists Dr. Randall Pozdena and Dr. Eric Fruits, was published by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) today.  The report takes a deep theoretical and empirical dive into both state and national tax policy debunking several myths along the way.

Myth number one is the notion that “increased government spending stimulates the economy during recessions.”  Messrs Pozdena and Fruits review the academic literature in order to debunk this common myth.  At the national level they find:

A large and long-standing body of literature finds that increased or higher government spending tends to reduce economic growth rather than increase it. This negative relationship between prior levels of high spending and growth is apparent in the data from developed nations (See Figure 3). 

Looking at the state level a similar conclusion is found; higher government spending correlates with slower economic growth:

Studies comparing the growth rates of various states with different levels of public sector spending also fail to identify consistent evidence that demonstrates how public spending increases a state’s rate of economic growth. This is particularly the case when the spending is on transfer payments, but it is ambiguous even when spending is on more productive items, such as education, health and infrastructure. 

Figure 4 shows that states that have a history of high rates of total government spending growth (per dollar of Gross State Product [GSP]) subsequently display much lower rates of GDP growth. This is suggestive of a causal relationship between fiscal profligacy and subsequent slow growth.

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