And, on which trees will this money grow?
Kentucky’s public school districts want more money. The state’s economic situation doesn’t fit into their equation. Instead, WFPL is reporting that to boost their case, the districts have joined together under the Council for Better Schools banner to put pressure on the state (I wonder if this is actually the Council for Better Education??). Regardless, it is nothing new for Kentucky’s school districts to come up with their own report to show how short-changed they are.
For a little history, the Council for Better Education was first formed in the 1980s and eventually brought the lawsuit that led to the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 and its huge tax increase for schools (50 percent increase between 1990 and 1995).
Around the turn of the century the school districts got upset over funding again, and the council was resurrected. The council funded another study in February 2003 that said Kentucky needed to spend an additional $892 million per year.
Ironically, several other such school funding studies were completed around the same timeframe. Findings varied widely. One report showed the state needed to boost funding in each year by just $400 million. Another council-funded report said Kentucky needed to increase spending by a whopping $1.2 billion each year!
So, the current tactics are an old ploy – commission a report to show what you want to show about how much money is supposedly needed to adequately fund the state’s school system. This isn’t the first time such a study has been conducted. It’s happened before.
One thing for sure: You can bet the supposedly required amount will be something well beyond anything Kentucky’s taxpayers can afford – just like last time.
This might not be a good time for districts to try to beat the taxpayer about money. Within the past two years the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts has discovered serious fiscal improprieties on the part of staff in three difference Kentucky school districts. One former superintendent from the Dayton Independent School District is already in prison. Another from Mason County schools is under indictment. And, a scam with substitute teacher accounts in Shelby County schools apparently made a school finance person illegally rich to the tune of nearly $600,000.
The ‘take’ from these inappropriate fund diversions totals to nearly a million dollars. Locally administered annual audits never identified these problems.
There may be more problems out there. Right now, articles keep running in the Pike County area press while the local school board keeps dithering about doing a forensic audit.
“Just audit already, Problems already found are reason enough for forensic probe to be done,” a December 3, 2014 opinion piece from the Appalachian News-Express (not available online to nonsubscribers), outlines many issues that seem worth investigation. I have talked with the editor of that article, and he absolutely stands behind it.
So, let’s fix the education system’s obvious audit problems and insure the corruption problems are in hand while we figure out how to run our schools “efficiently” – as the Kentucky Constitution requires – before we blindly throw more scarce tax dollars at our schools.
One more thing: The Center for Education Reform reports:
“Nationwide, on average, charter schools are funded at 61 percent of their district counterparts, averaging $7,612 per pupil compared to $10,441 per pupil at conventional district public schools.”
That’s a whole lot more efficient that traditional public school operations. So, if our schools say they have a cash problem, maybe it’s time for Kentucky to forget about whimsical fiscal studies and to adopt a charter school law so Bluegrass State kids can benefit from this more efficient public school model that students in 42 other states now enjoy.