Wichita – While the Kansas legislature continues to grapple with a response to the on-going school finance litigation, a new survey of 518 registered Kansas voters makes clear that reform and efficiency should be paramount in the minds of legislators. The market research survey was conducted by SurveyUSA on behalf of Kansas Policy Institute; SurveyUSA is a widely regarded polling firm also utilized by KCTV-5 in Kansas City and KWCH in Wichita. Full methodology and cross tabulations are available here.
“Kansans clearly expect school districts to make efficient use of their money,” said KPI president Dave Trabert. “But, there is ample evidence that that is not the case and school districts are actively lobbying against options that would reduce their costs and make more money available for instruction. Unnecessary new taxes to fund a court ruling on school finance are clearly opposed by Kansas taxpayers. In fact, taxing citizens to increase school funding when local school boards choose to waste money would amount to inequitable treatment of Kansans from all walks of life.”
Trabert is referencing the findings of the survey in which 88 percent of respondents expect Kansas school districts to efficiently use their money. Asked via a separate question, 73 percent say that a new school funding formula should include some requirement that schools operate efficiently and only 20 percent say the formula should not require efficiency. Voters also strongly approve having outside-the-classroom functions provided via regional service centers, with savings going back into the classroom; 76 percent of respondents support the idea with only 19 percent opposed. Local school boards and unions are on record opposing each of these concepts.
Participants were asked the questions as some of the ideas currently pending before the 2016 Kansas legislature. Full methodology and cross tabulations are available here.
Trabert continued, “These results put elected officials in a political box. Do they listen to their constituents and endure the political wrath of the powerful school and union lobby or do they surrender to special interests? By a measure of 2 to 1, Kansans prefer that existing taxpayer money be used rather than impose higher taxes if the Supreme Court order more school funding. This is Kansans speaking with a clear voice – outside of the special interests flooding the state house.”
Non-finance questions were also asked. 68 percent of respondents think that teachers should have the basic right of voting on their collective bargaining unit (i.e., authorizing a local teachers union) every three years; 76 percent of self-identified government employees also support this right to vote. Among those who expressed a preference, clear majorities also favor expanded public charter school legislation and the idea of money following an individual student to a private school, via an educational savings account.
Trabert concluded, “Kansans increasingly understand that the status-quo isn’t doing enough for many students, particularly those from low income families. Legislators and citizens alike must stand up to the education lobby and put students first, or know that more generations of Kansas kids will be left behind.”