New Survey: Kansans Remain Misinformed Regarding K-12 Finance

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New Survey: Kansans Remain Misinformed Regarding K-12 Finance
Residents Also Weary of Tax Hikes, Service Cuts – Want  More Efficient Government
November 13 – Wichita – While the election ads have stopped, Kansans remain deeply misinformed about the true state of the Kansas budget and K-12 finance. Kansas Policy Institute released a public opinion survey today from SurveyUSA that takes the pulse of 535 registered Kansas voters. The results highlight several of the issues facing the state as the election season draws to a close and the legislature looks to convene early next year. This is the fourth survey conducted by SurveyUSA for KPI in the past two years; SurveyUSA was received an “A” for accuracy from political number-crunching site FiveThirtyEight.

Full questions, methodology, and crosstabs available here.

“It is impossible for citizens to develop informed opinions on education funding and state budget issues without accurate information,” said KPI president Dave Trabert. “We continue to see that citizens who are accurately informed on K-12 funding have significantly different opinions than those who believe school funding is much lower than reality.”

KPI has asked the same question about total K-12 funding in surveys going back to 2010 and today’s release confirms the results from previous years as well – the overwhelming majority of Kansans do not understand the full picture of taxpayer support to public schools. Respondents were asked, “How much funding per pupil do you think Kansas school districts currently receive from ALL taxpayer sources per year, including State, Federal and Local taxpayers?” and answered as follows over the past four years;

  • March 2010:  only 4% of respondents were able to correctly identify the appropriate funding level;
  • October 2012: only 7% of respondents made the correct determination;
  • November 2014: only 7% of respondents correctly  identified total per-pupil spending.

Participants in the 2014 survey could select from a range in answering the question (i.e. <$7,000, $7,000-$10,000, $10,000-$13,000, >$13,000).

Another question asked whether funding for other state agencies should be reduced to give more money to school districts.  Among citizens who are least informed (believing total funding is below $7,000 per-pupil) 57% agreed and 35% disagreed, but only 35% of those who knew funding is above $13,000 per-pupil agreed that more funding was needed and 62% disagreed.

Trabert continued, “The number of Kansans who can correctly answer this question remains disturbingly low, but knowing how frequently funding is misrepresented by education officials and special interests, it’s not surprising. Instead of trying to low-ball school funding to justify increased aid, the focus should be on improving outcomes.

“Kansans are providing record funding levels, that also exceed adjustments for enrollment and inflation over the last ten years, but outcomes on independent national assessments are relatively unchanged.  It will always cost a lot of money to provide public education but the data shows that it’s how the money is spent that matters – not how much.  ‘Just spend more’ is about funding institutions.  The focus needs to shift to getting more of the record-setting funding into classrooms where it will best help students.”

The emphasis on getting more money to classrooms is a priority for citizens; 74% of respondents believe outside-the-classroom functions should be provided more efficiently on a regionalized basis, with savings put into classrooms. Other keys findings in the poll;

  • Only 7% correctly said that total per-pupil funding has increased more than 5% over the last four years;
  • 66% of the respondents who correctly identified the total per-pupil amount spent on K-12 education ARE NOT willing to personally pay higher taxes to spend more on education;
  • 68% of respondents agreed with the statement, “I believe the Kansas state government should pursue efficiency savings, focus on core functions, and spend unnecessary cash reserves before raising taxes and/or cutting government functions”;
  • 54% want to reduce spending via efficiencies to solve any state budget problems; 14% would rather reduce spending even it means a reduction in service and only 26% want higher income or sales taxes.
  • 74% believe state government could operate 5% to 10% more efficiently; 74% of government employees in the survey also agreed that government can operate more efficiently.

Trabert concluded with, “Legislators and citizens cannot make good decisions about the challenges facing the state without good information. This survey confirms what we’ve known previously – Kansans are being misinformed and that cannot lead to good decision making. We encourage legislators and others to honestly examine facts without political bias.  No finger pointing…no attempts to score political points…and no shading the facts…just civil discussion of the issues and facts.”

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