“How money is spent is much more important than how much money is spent,” when it comes to government spending. This is the key takeaway from Dr. Eric Hanushek’s recent trip to Kansas. Hanushek is an internationally acclaimed economist and a Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He has literally written the book on school finance litigation and believes strongly in the economic impact that student achievement has not only for the individual, but also for the entire economy. And regarding student achievement, he says “if you are really interested in student achievement, you have to focus on student achievement. You don’t focus on things you think might be related to student achievement.” In short, the how is key.
The timing of Hanushek’s visit to Kansas is of particular importance. The Legislature is in the midst of changing the Kansas education finance law, as directed by the Supreme Court. They hired a consultant, Dr. Lori Taylor of Texas A&M, to conduct a school finance study. Also last week, Dr. Taylor made an initial presentation to the Legislature. It appears Dr. Taylor may be incorporating some of these principals in the Kansas study. She will be analyzing state assessment data and how money is currently being spent in Kansas schools.
While Dr. Hanushek was in Kansas he also spent a day in Topeka meeting with legislators. Between those meetings and Dr. Taylor testimony the legislature certainly had a lot to think about during their annual February recess. Here is hoping that they take some of this expert advice to heart and make funding decisions based on the best interest of students.