I blogged a few days ago about “KY education is required to be Efficient!” This is actually a constitutional requirement in Kentucky. That should be sufficient, but history to date shows it has not been.
Now, however, an article from the Brookings Institution indicates requirements in the new regulations for the new Every Student Succeeds Act may add a federal mandate for accurate school level finance reporting, too.
In “The sunlight effect: More equitable spending on its way regardless of rulemaking,” Brookings says that the forthcoming ESSA regulations will “require recipient districts to divvy up their funds so that their high-poverty schools get as many dollars per student as their schools with more affluent students.”
Obviously, that can’t happen if there isn’t an accurate accounting of what every school is getting.
However, Brookings continues:
“…most districts (perversely) send a smaller share of their state and local funds to the schools with the most poor and minority students — even in progressively minded cities like Seattle.”
Is that also happening in Kentucky? Who knows?
Consider some of the nonsense “Spending per Student” figures shown in the state’s latest Kentucky School Report Cards database. These numbers come from one of the Kentucky School Report Cards’ Excel spreadsheets for 2014-15. The specific information is accessed in the report cards’ “Data Sets” section under the area of “Learning Environment” by clicking on the “Students/Teachers” link. I accessed the spreadsheet on June 2, 2016, so the data below is current.
All four schools listed are Kentucky Class A1 (e.g. standard) schools. They don’t just serve special student groups that might have unusually high or low per-student spending figures.
Consider these points:
• Even though it also receives abnormally high per student dollars, the Clark Elementary School, also in the Paducah Independent School District, gets more than $7,000 less per student than the two Paducah schools listed above.
• There is no way that either Betsy Layne High School or the Bremen Elementary School could begin to operate with the ridiculously low funding levels shown above. For example, if Bremen assigned 20 students per teacher, the funding would only support an annual salary of just $300 for that teacher. Even the higher funding at Betsy Layne would only support a teacher salary of $7,380 per annum under the same pupil ratio. Teachers would be better off working at McDonald’s if we really only paid that!
So, the message is clear: Kentuckians currently are not getting credible, comparable data about what the state’s public school system spends in each of its schools.
Furthermore, it looks like our educators’ obvious and continuous refusal to abide by the state’s constitutional requirements to provide efficient schools (which obviously requires accurate funding data to establish such efficiency) might now get us in trouble with the federal government, as well.