By
Michael Moore-style "mockumentary" is political statement masquerading as documentary. High school producer to be applauded for effort, but needs to be honest about perspective. http://kansaspolicyinstitute.podbean.com/e/video-documentary-on-kansas-budget-short-on-facts/


Video Documentary on Kansas Budget Short on Facts
kansaspolicyinstitute.podbean.com
Dave Trabert, president of Kansas Policy Institute, discusses Kansas state budget facts that were left out of a
Fri, 17 Apr 2015 02:51:19 +0000
By
Happy Tax Day! H/t Reason Magazinehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeA3s77O9Yo


Remy: Best Song Ever! (Tax Code Edition)

Remy channels One Direction to help us understand the tax code. Written and performed by Remy. Music tracks and background vocals by Ben Karlstrom. Produced ...
Wed, 15 Apr 2015 19:19:39 +0000
By
Wichita, Andover, and Goddard schools all set to see state aid increases under the block grant. Each district in both counties listed here...http://kansaspolicy.org/KPIBlog/125997.aspx


State aid to Butler and Sedgwick counties to increase under block grants
kansaspolicy.org
 Butler County schools are scheduled to receive 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 in funding. Rose Hill will r
Thu, 09 Apr 2015 16:40:36 +0000
Last Refreshed 4/20/2015 6:48:52 PM
KPIBlog
Print

CLICK HERE to receive daily notification of new additions to the KPIBlog.
You must be registered to comment. Click here to log in.


123>>
Page 1 of 3
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.

 Special Education Cooperatives and Interlocals Make Comparisons Difficult

Most school districts in Kansas enter into inter-district agreements to provide special education services in an effort to provide those services in a more cost-effective manner. According to the KSDE directory, 252 of the 286 schools districts in the state are part of what is called either a cooperative or an interlocal. Essentially, it means two or more school districts in an area pool their teaching resources to serve special education kids. This distorts the employment reporting for these two reasons:

  • About half the districts are in cooperatives that list all the employees of the cooperative in only the “home” district of that cooperative. Example: the East Central Kansas Special Education Cooperative consists of 8 districts. The home district, Paola USD 368, reports 60 special education teachers and 253 special education paraprofessionals. The other 7 districts report zero special education teachers and zero special education paraprofessionals.

  • The remaining cooperatives have been given a school district number (all in the 600s), but the number of special education teachers, paraprofessionals and other employees go unreported.  According to the KSDE directory of schools there are 19 such “districts” that include 143 unified school districts. And, according to KSDE, these cooperatives have 5,284 employees, none of whom are included in state employment totals because KSDE only reports employment for unified school districts. 

*”Manager” is a KPI defined category that combines the 17 KSDE administrative categories reported by all school districts (superintendents, asst. superintendents, principals, asst. principals, business managers, and directors of all other functions).
 
 

Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Media reports on the just-passed legislation that will fund schools on block grants for the current year are loaded with school administrator claims that school funding is being cut this year, and  legislators continue to be bombarded with phone calls and emails making the same claim.

But it’s not true.  As we explained on a recent blog post, school funding will set a fourth consecutive record this year at $6.147 billion and a third consecutive record at $13,347 per pupil.  Funding will increase by $171 million this year and only $3 million of the increase is for pension funding.

The Wichita Eagle quotes USD 259 officials as saying the district “…would receive $4.8 million less for the current year than it would otherwise.  The key phrase is ‘than it would otherwise.’ No reference is made to how funding this year will compare to what the district actually spent last year because that is how the game is played; government only wants to compare to what it wants to spend rather than what it actually spent last year.

So we asked USD 259 a simple question: how much will you spend this year?  The answer, from CFO Jim Freeman, was $710.7 million, which is 14% more than the $623.6 million spent last year. USD 259 is getting a lot of sympathy for the alleged $4.8 million reduction but in reality, they estimate actual spending will be $87 million more this year.  (Mr. Freeman did note that the $710.7 million estimate is “probably higher than where the actuals will wind up” but it is based on “…maintaining current educational programs at planned levels” for the remaining 3 months.)

We also inquired about the variance between the $710.7 million estimate for this year and budgeted spending of $680.1 million shown in the district’s Budget at a Glance, as schools are not allowed to spend more than their published budget.  It turns out that published budgets are actually lower than the real budget because state law exempts several funds from being budgeted (at least Special Reserve [for self-insurance of health care], Textbooks and Materials, Activities and Construction, accorded to Dale Dennis at KSDE).  All district budgets would be potentially understated for Textbooks and Materials fund and Activities fund; only 24 districts used the Special Reserve fund last year and the Construction fund would only be used by districts with bond issues.

State law requires actual spending in Special Reserve, Textbooks and Materials and Activities to be recorded but not any budgeted spending.  As a result, the Notice of Public Hearing makes it appear that no money will be spent in those funds for the coming year and gives a false impression of total budgeted spending.  State law should be changed so that actual and budgeted spending must be published for every fund.

The Legislature should also ask every district to disclose their estimated spending this year so they and all citizens can make an honest evaluation of school spending.

Posted by David Dorsey on Wednesday, March 25, 2015

This legislative session saw five bills float around under the newly refinished capitol dome that deal with collective bargaining between teachers and school boards. Here is a brief summary of what they would do.

  • SB 136/HB 2257, drafted and supported by the education establishment, it would, among other things, allow each side to choose up to five items for negotiation.

  • HB 2034 limits teacher contract negotiations to salaries and hours worked. Other items could be negotiated with consent from both sides.

  • SB 176 would allow only minimum salaries to be negotiated. It also allows a school board to issue a unilateral contract (allowing each teacher individually to accept or reject a contract offer) as soon as there is an impasse.

  • HB 2326 restricts union influence by allowing the union to bargain for members only. All other teachers would deal directly with the local school boards.

Here is a brief summary of what has transpired as of this writing.

  • HB 2257 was offered as amended language to HB 2034, but was defeated by a committee vote.

  • HB 2034 was passed out of committee but died in the full house.

  • SB 176 has had a hearing but no action was taken.

  • HB 2326 was voted out of committee and sent to the full house for action. It passed with an amendment that substituted its original language with the language from HB 2257.

  • SB 136 was amended multiple times which, among other things, allow each side to choose up to three items for negotiations. The full senate voted to substitute this language into HB2326 and will send the bill back to the house for reconsideration.

So much time, so much effort, so much debate, so much political posturing, so much confusion with so many bills, so much ado about something so unnecessary – teacher contracts.

Teachers don’t need contracts to teach. That’s a declaration that would make most in the education community gasp. It sounds like a statement from someone who had no experience in education, but I spent 20 years in the classroom and never felt the need for a contract. Not only are they unnecessary, but are actually detrimental to both teachers and students.

I will share an anecdote from my recent past as a case in point.

In the 2013-14 school year, my last year of teaching, there were contentious negotiations in my district between KNEA and the Topeka Public Schools (USD 501) school board. During the summer prior to the school year, the board granted huge raises to nearly every administrator in the district. Apparently, the board feared the administrative core was all headed to Johnson County unless given considerably higher compensation. Concurrently, the board offered the teachers a modest raise, which raised the ire among teachers and was overwhelmingly rejected by vote. A stalemate incurred, with both sides holding firm throughout the year. Since Kansas does not have binding arbitration, the board held the trump card; they had the right to extend what is called a unilateral contract, circumventing the union to make a take-it-or-leave-it proposition to the teachers individually. Sensing the rank-and-file members were getting antsy for a resolution (mainly because the teachers had gotten no raise money all year and the school year was nearly over), the union surveyed the members to find out where they stood with regards to being offered a unilateral contract.  As was shared with me by a union insider, much to the chagrin of the KNEA, a vast majority of the members said they were willing to take the unilateral contract. This triggered the following to happen: on the same day teachers were sent an email from the union telling us to hold firm and not give into the school board’s offer. Later that morning, after the union got the results of their survey, a follow-up email was sent to us telling all now to support the contract (which easily passed).

The point of this story is that the union got its members (and us non-members) nothing more than the school board offered in the first place. So all that time, all that work, all that negotiating, all that uncertainty, all that back-and-forth, all that ill-will – for what? Nothing. All the contract negotiations process got us was limbo for about nine months.

Sure, that’s just a single incident but it underscores several realities of the negotiated contract process, including: teaching under uncertain conditions, an adversarial employer/employee relationship and the willingness of teachers to work without a union negotiated contract. But those aren’t the only conditions that support the case for contracts going the way of the VCR and the rotary phone. Here are some others:

  •  A contract-free teaching environment would give teachers greater security and stability when the school-year started because there would be no pending employment issues (e.g., salaries and benefits). Teachers would be unencumbered from the uncertainty that often accompanies the negotiation process. To the benefit of the students, they would be free to give total commitment to teaching.

  • School boards would recognize that not all teachers are the same or do the same (e.g. subject matter or grade level taught, school placement, student performance) and make salary decisions based on those differences. Compensation would become more market based as the one-size-fits-all salary matrix system would dissolve.

  • A logical extension of market-based compensation would be the necessity of a completely different teacher evaluation process.

  •  The legislature could spend more time on real substantive education issues. One representative lamented that there have been bills on collective bargaining every year he has served on the committee. Doesn’t the legislature have more important things to do than debate bills that include superfluous issues such as dress codes for teachers?

So, with all these advantages in doing away with teacher contracts, why do we still have them? It’s because they’ve always had them. Change is difficult, especially when it involves something so entrenched. And eliminating a government entrenched activity is nearly impossible.

But the issue must be raised. It must start some time, and the time is now.

UPDATE:  All the bills referenced in this blog were killed prior to the legislature's first adjournment on April 2, so unless resurrected in the "veto session" there will no changes in the collective bargaining law.  There is an old saying that the legislative process is like making sausage, but this is more analogous to fruitcake. Not only is better to avoid seeing it made, like collective bargaining for teachers, it is unnecessary to begin with.

 
 

 

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Friday, March 20, 2015

This piece was published originally by The Heritage Foundation and authored by Edmund F. Haislmaier, Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Health Policy Studies, of the Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity, at The Heritage Foundation.

State lawmakers—particularly those in states that would be affected by a Supreme Court ruling against the Obama Administration in the King case—should take steps to encourage Congress to put forth a legislative response to the case, specifically by exempting affected states from the costly Obamacare rules, regulations, and mandates.[1]

Reject a State Exchange

State lawmakers should also resist efforts to prop up the flawed Obamacare structure by rejecting any adoption of a state exchange. States gain no meaningful flexibility from administering the exchanges,[2] while their long-term costs fall squarely on the states, as any state implementing a state exchange must develop its own revenue source to fund the exchange’s annual operations.[3] Instead, states should lead the way out of Obamacare by demonstrating that they are better equipped to ensure access to affordable coverage.

Adopt Consumer-Focused State Reforms

To encourage Congress to exempt states affected by a Court ruling in favor of King from the costly Obamacare rules, regulations, and mandates, state lawmakers should put forward a set of state-based reforms that would minimize any adverse effects on individuals losing subsidies and allow these individuals to transition to new, more affordable coverage in their states. Such action would demonstrate state preparation for and receptiveness to a targeted exemption.

Specifically, state lawmakers should consider four key areas of state insurance law.

Ensure Appropriate Age Rating Rules. State lawmakers should ensure that state insurance law is set to default automatically to a less restrictive age rating ratio for premiums in their individual and group health insurance markets, effective as soon as Congress lifts the ACA’s ill-considered federal imposition of a narrower three-to-one ratio. The natural variation in health costs between 64-year-olds and 21-year-olds is about five-to-one.[4]

States should revert to their prior standard or another more appropriate variation. Taking such action would help to minimize disruption in a state’s insurance markets by enabling insurers to price coverage for younger adults more appropriately. That would better position insurers to attract and retain a larger portion of this desirable customer segment whose premiums partially offset the higher costs of less healthy enrollees.

Review State Benefit Mandates. Too often, health insurance benefit mandates function as special-interest provisions that are less about protecting consumers and more about protecting the revenues of health care providers. A national actuarial study estimated that the Obamacare essential benefits were responsible for increasing individual market premiums by between 3 percent and 17 percent—with the effects varying by health plan and state, which mainly reflected differences in the extent to which states had already mandated coverage for some of the required services.[5]

Congress’s enactment of an exemption from Obamacare’s federal health insurance benefits mandates would default regulation in that area back to state law. Beyond that, state lawmakers could also look to any previous reviews of the costs of state-mandated benefits in their states as a starting point for reconsidering the appropriateness of their state’s benefit requirements.

Restore Individual and Small-Group Market Rules. State lawmakers should also ensure that their state’s insurance laws governing individual and small-group health insurance policies are set to default automatically to the pre-Obamacare individual and small-group rules. This is important because the ACA did not just supersede the prior rules; it actually discarded much of that earlier design in the process.

The fundamental mistake made by the authors of the ACA was to discard prior law and impose on both the group and non-group markets a blanket federal prohibition on the application of preexisting-conditions exclusions under any circumstances. Consequently, state lawmakers need to ensure that the appropriate default is set in state law.

States should ensure that individual-market plans are guaranteed renewable, as previously established.[6] Beyond that, state lawmakers should also adopt individual-market rules that, similar to the HIPAA group-market rules, would permit someone who has purchased and maintained coverage to obtain new individual health insurance coverage regardless of the individual’s health status or past medical history.[7]

Permit Interstate Insurance Competition. State lawmakers do not need federal approval or action to create interstate insurance competition in their states. States can simply enact laws that permit policies regulated in other states to be sold to their state’s residents. Allowing a state’s residents to purchase coverage regulated by an adjoining state would make the most sense. Doctors and hospitals located near state borders likely already treat patients living in neighboring states and have contracts with insurers regulated by those states.

For instance, as part of its 2011 reform law, Maine allowed its residents to buy coverage that is regulated by Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island.[8] In this respect too, Maine’s legislation is a model for other states to consider.

Conclusion

Should Congress respond to a Court ruling against the Obama Administration’s interpretation in the King case with an exemption, states should be prepared to put forth state policies that would minimize any adverse effects on individuals losing subsidies and allow these individuals to transition to new, more affordable coverage.

Show references in this report


Posted by Patrick Parkes on Friday, March 13, 2015

Next week’s legislative agenda in Topeka will continue the debate in Kansas about possible expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act—more commonly known as Obamacare. A KPI blog post from May 2014 outlined the grave financial dangers of heading down this path. Kansas already faces $4.1 billion (almost $1,400 per Kansan) in new Medicaid costs on account of Obamacare’s “individual mandate” that everyone must purchase health insurance—even those individuals who opted voluntarily to go without it prior to the mandate. Expanding Medicaid eligibility to childless adults without disabilities and not limiting it to just the Kansans who need coverage assistance most will cost the state a projected additional $624.5 million over 10 years. This will bring the total cost of Obamacare in Kansas to $4.72 billion (or more than $1,600 per Kansan) over the period. And that’s assuming the cash-starved federal government meets its matching fund promises…something history shows is far from guaranteed (See the Obama Administration’s “blended match rate” proposal from 2011 for evidence of its willingness to tinker with and reduce Medicaid matching funds). Yet, expanding Medicaid in Kansas is far from just a state finance issue; it will affect Kansans directly every day by increasing the share of their income that the government will need to take to fund itself. More importantly though, as research indicates, Medicaid enrollment has shown no statistically significant ability to improve measurable health outcomes for recipients. In short, expanding an already ineffective health system would not only be an unwise use of precious taxpayer dollars; it would also be a subpar solution to the goal of providing quality healthcare to our fellow Kansans who need it most.

Obamacare’s mandate provisions and Medicaid expansion frameworks were designed to reduce overall healthcare costs by eliminating the uncompensated care phenomenon whereby previously uninsured patients would seek care in emergency rooms. Hospitals would make up for their losses on this care by charging insured patients higher rates for care across the board.

This dilemma may make the idea of a universal health insurance mandate seem like a plausible one on paper. But recent research from the Heritage Foundation, using the federal government's own nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) methodology (Appendix 2), shows that Obamacare and its mandates are limiting health insurance options and driving up the costs of these options. In 2013, prior to the Obamacare's implementation, Kansans shopping for insurance coverage on the individual market could choose among 28 insurance providers from which to purchase health insurance coverage. Today, with the legislation in full effect, Kansans shopping through a now federally-run Obamacare exchange are limited to 3 providers (an 89% decline in insurance coverage options). This trend holds up nationally as well (1,231 providers in 2013 compared to 310 today), amounting to an almost 75% decline in the size of the overall insurance coverage options. This is due to the Obamacare’s "rating rules" and "benefit mandates." These age and community-based restrictions give insurance providers less flexibility in terms of the types of policies they can offer and the prices at which they can offer them. This dynamic has created standardized, "all-inclusive" insurance plans that preclude consumers from buying coverage selectively based on their unique needs (e.g. a post-menopausal woman being forced to purchase insurance that covers pregnancy and prenatal care).   By extension then, specialized insurance providers offering coverage tailored to these needs have been regulated out of state and national health insurance markets. The resulting price hikes individuals are seeing in their premiums (by virtue of being forced to buy coverage they don’t need) are shown in the table below.

  

Even in spite of all the evidence above concerning the stark limitations Obamacare has placed on consumer choice and affordability in health care, let's consider whether the legislation at least accomplishes its stated goal of eliminating uncompensated care scenarios and costs while also improving overall health outcomes for patients. January 2014 research published in the journal Science by a team of scholars at Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) says otherwise.

These researchers used pre-Obamacare, 2007-2009 data—which coincided with the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment (OHIE). The Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved OHIE was unique given Oregon’s use of a lottery initially to determine Medicaid enrollment under a newly-expanded eligibility framework the state rolled out officially in 2008. This created one-of-a-kind control and treatment groups that enabled researchers to study real-life healthcare usage rates and outcomes under Medicaid expansion using a gold-standard, randomized control group research design. The lottery arrangement predated Obamacare and even the Obama Administration itself, so the study’s results remain valid wholly apart from Oregon’s present-day struggles to manage its Medicaid program in the age of Obamacare.

The researchers noted that overall emergency room use increased by 40% for new Medicaid recipients. It is most telling though that there was an 18% spike in emergency room visits to treat non-emergency conditions that could have been addressed more cost-effectively in primary care or other settings.

This marks not only a continuation but also a growth of one of the primary cost trends the ACA was designed to reverse.

Additionally, the researchers found no evidence of Medicaid coverage improving key measures of patient health like blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels, and longer-term blood sugar maintenance measured via glycated hemoglobin levels.

The fact that Medicaid expansion has failed thus far to rein in the higher costs of emergency care while leaving recipients no better off health-wise than their socioeconomic peers without Medicaid begs the question of why Kansas should spend precious taxpayer dollars in pursuit of subpar results.

Some changes are certainly needed as the state continually looks for the best ways to provide health insurance coverage to Kansans who need it most. Potential ideas in this regard will be the topic of a separate, upcoming blog post. Suffice it to say for now though, Medicaid expansion is not the answer to providing health coverage with an eye toward “Better Service at a Better Price” for all Kansans.       

Posted by Dave Trabert on Saturday, March 7, 2015

You wouldn’t know it from media reports or school district newsletters, but school funding will still set another new record this year.  Superintendents say they are dealing with budget cuts but that is largely government-speak for not getting as much of an increase as they would like – and media laps it up without asking how this year’s funding compares with last year.

The Kansas Department of Education (KDSE) says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.409 billion, 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 $3.985 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.  That would put total taxpayer support at $6.147 billion this year and set a new funding record for the fourth consecutive year.

Funding per-pupil would be $13,347 (based on revised KSDE estimated enrollment of 460,526) and set a new record for the third consecutive year. (Note: the original publication of this post put per-pupil spending at $13,262 based on the original KSDE enrollment estimate of 463,500; KSDE has since revised their enrollment estimate downward.)

Total funding last year according to KSDE was $5.976 billion, so the revised estimate for this year represents a $171 million increase.  Also of note, KSDE puts KPERS funding last year at $312 million and shows $315 million included in the block grant; that means – contrary to claims you might have heard – that almost all of the funding increase is not related to pension funding.

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 blue line shows actual funding and red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year.  FYI, funding this year would be $1.543 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment. (Note: the variance was originally reported at $1.503 billion based on a different enrollment figure as explained above.)



Posted by Dave Trabert on Wednesday, February 25, 2015

School districts may say they need their cash reserves to operate but if they each had maintained the same percentage of operating expense held in 2006, cash reserves would have been $320 million lower at the beginning of the 2014 school year.

Most school districts claiming to have small cash reserves are only talking about their Contingency Fund, which is often referred to as a savings account for emergencies.  In reality, they have as many as twenty-eight funds functioning in that fashion.  Districts collectively began the 2014 school year with $194 million in Contingency cash reserves but their current operating carryover cash reserves in those twenty-eight funds totaled $884 million

KPI staff calculates an annual Carryover Ratio for each district to facilitate cash reserves comparisons of districts of all sizes and spending levels.  The Carryover Ratio reflects each district’s carryover cash reserves at the beginning of each school year as a percentage of that year’s actual current operating spending. 

The 2014 Carryover Ratio for all school districts was 17percent ($884 million in cash reserves divided by $5.2 billion in current operating spending.  As shown on the adjacent table, the Carryover Ratio is significantly higher than in most years.  The average Carryover Ratio was very steady between 2006 and 2008; it increased a bit more over the next two years and then took a large jump in 2011 to 16 percent.

This trend is quite significant for purposes of determining adequacy of funding and the necessary level of cash reserves.  School funds operate on a cash basis and are similar to one’s checking account; the balance only increases if more money is deposited than is spent.  The annual increase in cash reserves therefore reflect money that districts collected during the year but didn’t need.  A one-year increase could possibly be attributed to some unusual circumstance but seven consecutive years of increasing cash reserves is a clear sign that districts have received more money than necessary to educate students.  The total increase between the 2006 and 2013 school years was $426 million – that wasn’t needed to educate students. Districts claim that they need their annual cash balances, and to be sure, every entity needs some degree of reserves.  However, there is no record of districts complaining that they lacked sufficient cash reserves when average ratios were below 12 percent and since school officials aren’t bashful about claiming to need more money, their silence in those years is quite telling.

The rise in the median and maximum carryover ratio is even greater than the jump in the average ratio.  The median Carryover Ratio rose from 9.2 percent in 2006 to 15.6 percent last year and the maximum carryover ratio nearly doubled to 65.5 percent.

The distribution across districts is also eye-opening.  The majority of districts held less than 10 percent of their annual operating costs in reserve through 2009.  Since 2011, the majority held more than 15 percent in reserve

Fifty-four districts began last year with less than 10 percent in reserves, which for most of the past several years was commonplace.  Indeed, sixty-two districts had less than 10 percent in reserves for at least six of the last nine years.  If that many districts can manage operations with small reserves (as the majority of districts have done for many years), it begs credulity that so many districts claim to need more than 20 percent.

Historic Carryover Ratios by district can be found on KansasOpenGov.org.
Posted by David Dorsey on Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now that the Rose standards have been identified as what determines adequacy of education funding in Kansas, much attention is now focused on how the education community will address them. Recently, incoming Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson and outgoing Interim Education Commissioner Brad Neuenswander provided an update on Rose standards to the House Education Committee.

Included in their presentation was their vision of how to incorporate those standards to make Kansas high school grads more college and career ready. Dr. Watson explained to the members the special importance of being ready for post-secondary education, since by 2020, 71% of jobs in Kansas will require some post-secondary educational attainment.

Unfortunately, too many students enter colleges, universities and trade schools who don’t have the academic chops to earn a license or degree. According to the latest ACT figures which I reported in this blog, only three in ten of all Kansas college-bound high school students are “college ready” in the four subjects of English, math, reading and science. And those figures are much lower when considering just minority students. This, of course, requires many students to take remedial courses (especially in math) upon entry into colleges and universities. The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) reports that upwards of 40% of students take a remedial course at a university, and about half take a remedial course upon entering a community college. Of course, not every high school graduate will go on to a college or a university. However, these numbers are indicative of how many students leave high school ill-prepared for the next step in their lives.

Recognizing this, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) has proposed a “requirement that each student have an individual plan for postsecondary preparation, developed and implemented by local boards of education under standards adopted by the State Board.” Now, that sounds like a good idea and a reasonable response for getting high schools students prepared for life, doesn’t it?

Well, upon closer inspection of this concept, there are many questions that need to be answered prior to such an ambitious undertaking.

The “requirement.” I’m hesitant to endorse any education proposal that is required. In this case, I am concerned about every student being put on an educational track. How will that track be different for those who have no intention of going to college- those who may want to work the family farm, or join the military, or work in the family business? Will these students be put in a less rigorous educational plan, thus fulfilling a lowered expectation than planning for post-secondary education?
Parental role. What say will mom and dad have for their child’s plan?
Monitoring and implementation. Who is going to be responsible for putting the plans together then making sure they are implemented? How will that happen? According to KSDE enrollment figures for 2014-15, there are 140,217 enrolled high school students in the state. There are 46 high schools with more than 1,000 students, six of those have more than 2,000 students. How will that number of plans be managed?
Plans change. Do you think teenagers ever change their minds, or experience life-changing events? Will plans be flexible to meet those challenges?
A false assumption. This approach assumes high school students already know what they want. Did you know what you wanted to be when you were 16? When I was 16, I wanted to be at the drive-in theater with the girl I sat next to in history class. Would that go in the plan?
Directing by the school. Given that there will be hundreds, if not thousands of high school students who aren’t sure of their post-high school future, what role will whomever is putting the plan together play in leading a student in a particular direction?
Post- high school tracking. How will this approach be judged for success? Will high schools send staff running around the state to see if students are following the plan after high school? Will schools wait until a college-bound Kansan turns 24 to see if the plan was followed? And how can the educational system possibly follow-up on the thousands of high school graduates each year who do not go on to post-secondary institutions?
• Grade creep. How long would it be until middle schools and elementary schools became part of the “pre-plan process?”

And finally,

Money. How long will it take for schools realize they don’t have the manpower for such a massive undertaking, then come back to the legislature for more money?

If adopted, this program would be an administratively bloated bureaucratic nightmare.

Without question, high schools should be encouraging students to continue their education past graduation, especially given the economic realities of our time. And I concur with Dr. Watson’s observation that a high school diploma is the equivalent to what an eighth-grade education was fifty to one hundred years ago. However, there is only so much any school can do impact one’s future success -you know, that whole lead-a-horse-to-water bit. At some point, contrary to what the government-knows-best crowd believes, individual choice and personal responsibility has to be the final arbiter of one’s future.

In another recent blog I pointed out that when changes are made in education, it’s like a pendulum swinging back and forth – one extreme to another. Making mandatory that every student have an individual plan for post-secondary preparation is a perfect example of the pendulum theory.

It’s naïve to believe that creating a plan for every student is the answer to this transition quandary. The most expedient way to prepare high school students for post-secondary success is to increase the rigor of the curriculum, hold students to high standards of excellence, and remediate academic deficiencies PRIOR to graduation. And you don’t need individual plans to accomplish that.

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Friday, February 20, 2015

Calendar year 2013 payroll data for the Kansas Turnpike Authority--just added to KansasOpenGov.org raises some questions about pension spiking—which is the artificial increasing of an employee’s Final Average Salary at retirement, thereby producing a higher pension. (Note: KTA is a government authority, but it is not part of the state budget and its employees are therefore not included in the state payroll listing.)

The data showed some unusually high compensation numbers for some employees, which was partly driven by large payouts of unused sick leave, vacation and other paid leave upon employees’ termination or retirement.

KTA explains that these payouts encompass unused vacation and paid time off (PTO) as well as 30% of banked sick leave for some retirees hired on or before a certain date. In addition, individuals can leave KTA for a variety of reasons apart from retirement (i.e. resignation or termination) and still be eligible for a payout of their unused leave. The extent to which this practice occurs across state agencies and local government is unknown, but it begs the question of how much this practice costs taxpayers.

Sick leave is a benefit to provide pay when an employee is ill; it is not an entitlement intended to boost pay and pension. Vacation leave exists to be used in the promotion and maintenance of employee health and well-being within a calendar year.

These payouts aren’t just made on a one-off basis; they have long-term budgetary impacts. This graphic highlights the compensation of now retired KTA President/CEO Michael L. Johnston to make this point.


Assuming Johnson was hired prior to 1993 and retired with 30 years of credited service, he had the option of having his pension benefits calculated based on either (1) the average of his last 3 years of base pay, excluding additional compensation or (2) the average of his last four years of total pay, including additional compensation (e.g. unused vacation and sick pay). Thus, his large payout of unused vacation and sick pay in 2013 made it so that his average total pay over the last four years qualified him for an annual pension payment of $219,119. This compares to the payment of $199,500 he would receive each year if his pension benefits were calculated instead based on his last three years of base pay only. (Note: Base pay for 2010 through 2012 are merely estimated for illustrative purposes.) The $19,600 difference between the two sums, if multiplied over the next 20 years, amounts to an additional $392,000 cost to the State of Kansas—all due to the way in which a single state entity handles unused vacation and sick pay.

If anything resembling this practice occurs beyond KTA and across the state, it is something that is worthy of examination as the Kansas State Legislature examines its funding to state entities and the true purposes for which that funding is intended and ought to be used.

 

Posted by Dave Trabert on Thursday, February 19, 2015

School districts spent an average $12,960 per student during the 2014 school year but the range of spending across districts varied quite significantly.  Total spending went from a low of $9,245 per-pupil (USD 218 Elkhart, with 1,137 students) to a high of $23,861 (USD 490 El Dorado, 1,872 students); El Dorado also hosted a Special Ed Co-Op and must record the cost of serving students in other districts per KSDE.  USD 359 Argonia had the highest spending per-pupil among districts that did not host Special Ed Co-Ops, spending $22,847 with 162 students enrolled.

Instruction spending variances can be somewhat driven by the school funding formula and student body compositions (extra money is given to districts for special education, low income students and bi-lingual students) but districts have a great deal of latitude in resource allocation.  Some districts, for example, divert money from Instruction as a result of other spending decisions.  Variances in spending on Administration and other cost centers, however, are primarily driven by district operating decisions.

Many Kansas school districts have low enrollment, and while it would be expected that very small districts would spend more per-pupil because of economies of scale, some small districts are able to operate at lower prices per student than many larger districts.  There are also wide variances even among districts of similar size.

A complete analysis of all operating cost centers (including Operations / Maintenance, Transportation, Food Service and Community Service can be found here.

To put these variances in perspective, KPI staff calculated the potential savings of getting each district spending above median within their enrollment category down to the median for each cost center.  The total comes to a staggering $516 million.  There may be some circumstances that preclude some of that savings being realized but there could also be additional savings realized among those districts spending below median.

To be clear, the purpose of this analysis is not to say that a specific dollar amount of savings could be had if districts operate more efficiently. However, variances of this magnitude certainly indicate that efficiency efforts driven by the Legislature could easily yield nine-figure savings.

Posted by Dave Trabert on Monday, February 16, 2015

The most recent performance and spending records of Johnson County school districts serves as a good reminder that there is no relationship between high spending and high achievement.  In fact, the two districts that spend the least happen to have the best outcomes on state assessments. 

Students who read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension and usually perform accurately on all grade-level math tasks are best positioned for success in college and career.  Disparate demographic compositions and achievement gaps distort districts' average scores, so student cohorts must be separately compared.  De Soto and Gardner-Edgerton have the highest and second-highest percentages of income-based cohorts attaining these levels in Reading and Math and also spend the least per-pupil on current operations (no capital or debt included). 

                       

The achievement gap for low income students is common across Kansas and there are also large variances in student body compositions across districts.  For example, only 8.4% of Blue Valley students are considered low income (based on eligibility for free / reduced lunch) whereas as Shawnee Mission has 37.8% who qualify as low income; eligibility for free/reduced lunch is the official metric of “income” via the Kansas Department of Education.   Blue Valley’s average score benefits from having very few low income students and masks the fact that other districts do as well or better on individual student groups.

De Soto’s and Gardner-Edgerton’s superior performance has great significance for taxpayers.  In fact, if the other five Johnson County districts operated at the per-pupil cost of De Soto, the burden on taxpayers could be reduced by $127.1 million!  Of course, while De Soto has the lowest operating cost per-student, that doesn’t mean that the district is efficient; savings across the county would be even greater if De Soto’s costs were reduced through consolidation of non-instruction services across district lines and other efficiency opportunities. 

FY 2014 per-pupil spending for each Johnson County district is shown below by cost center.  Click here to download these blog tables and per-pupil spending comparisons of all Johnson County school districts, showing how spending has changed since FY 2005.

Posted by Patrick Parkes on Thursday, February 12, 2015

December’s private-sector jobs numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics are available, and they show some positive growth in Kansas. To echo previous blogs in this series, there is an obvious short-sighted limitation to looking at jobs numbers for a single month in 2014 and comparing them to that same month in 2013. Namely, the numbers for a given month may be outliers when compared to a longer-term trend. What’s more, the numbers—especially in their early release stages—may be subject to upward or downward revisions the following month. However, even when taking potential anomalies into account (e.g. February-March, September-October), the graph below shows clearly that Kansas continues to gain ground and approach parity with its peer states that tax income.



Looking at job growth in the context of Kansas’ 2012 tax reforms illuminates this gaining of ground even further.

 

From December 2012 to December 2014, Kansas has posted a 2.97% job growth rate, equaling almost 78% of the rate its income-taxing peers achieved over the same two-year period. This represents continued improvement over the 2.31% growth Kansas achieved from 1998 through 2012, or 63.45% of the growth its income-taxing peers experienced.

Check back for January’s update.