Kansans are sending a strong message to legislators as they prepare for next year’s school funding debates – hold schools accountable. A statewide public opinion survey conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of Kansas Policy Institute shows:
- 78 percent of registered voters say non-instruction services should be provided regionally, with the savings put into classrooms.
- 70 percent say the school funding formula should provide financial incentives for improvement and consequences if achievement goals aren’t met.
- 62 percent say just district residents – not all taxpayers – should pay for district decisions to spend more than necessary to provide the same quality product or service.
The survey of 512 registered voters was conducted between November 15 and November 20 and has a credibility interval of ±4.4 percentage points. Complete results and methodology are available online.
Strong demand for more efficient spending is especially noteworthy given that most Kansans think school funding is much lower than reality. Only 6 percent of Kansans correctly believe state aid per-pupil is over $7,000 and just 6 percent accurately said total funding per-pupil exceeds $13,000.
Each of these voter calls for accountability would represent significant change to current practice. While there is some sharing of services across district lines, most non-instructional function (transportation, back office functions, food service, etc.) are provided within each district. The Legislature and the State Board of Education have never held schools accountable for meeting specific student achievement goals – as in, there are student-focused consequences for not meeting goals – and districts’ routine choices to spend more than necessary are ultimately passed on to taxpayers across the state.
Combined with Kansans’ overwhelming opposition to tax increases that would be necessary to meet the Supreme Court’s minimum funding demand (see “Kansans Reject Court Control of Schools”), voter calls for efficiency and accountability should give legislators a pretty clear path to follow. If history is any guide, however, unions and schools boards will object and push for enormous tax increases.
And that would be a real shame, as Kansans were just hit with the largest tax hike in state history and simply spending more money never has – and never will – cause student achievement to improve.