State study hopes to identify cost of ‘suitable education’
A state-level study of the cost of education may do more for anti-education legislators than it will for individual school districts, Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza said.
The project, which should cost about $220,000, will use discussion groups and expert panels in conjunction with a Denver consulting firm to estimate the cost of a suitable education in Kansas.
"I think the purpose of this is to try to give the legislature an objective account of how much money it costs to provide an education," said Mark Tallman, assistant executive director for advocacy at the Kansas Association of School Boards. "The idea was to say, 'Lets bring in someone who can see what it really costs."
The study could answer questions like whether a small school should get more funding or whether education on the whole should get more or less funding, Tallman said. That means legislators can use the study as a criteria for allocating money to education rather than basing financing on what's been done in the past.
The Legislative Educational Planning Committee is heading up the study, the recommendation for which came out of a task force looking at school finance for kindergarten through 12th grades, Tallman said.
"This is a real new thing," he said.
The results should be available in May 2002.
Yet the study won't be beneficial to the Eudora district, Kobza said, because it doesn't take into account outside revenue schools receive from local option budgets and capital outlay funds. Kobza said that means the state might say the district can scrape by on a smaller amount of money because they're only seeing what they put in.
"We feelmany of the support items are mandatory for education," Kobza said, using serving lunches and transporting children to school as examples. "We do away with food service, we have major problems."
Kobza said educational funding is in a crisis, and he's afraid the study may take the focus off of those problems, like keeping funding up on par with the cost of living.
"What we spend per student, on a national level isn't where it should be," Kobza said.
Education groups, like the School Finance Coalition, which is comprised of the KASB, Kansas National Education Association, six large school districts and other entities, criticize the way the legislature has handled school finance. The coalition argues suitable funding for education hasn't been provided to schools.
In response to a study criticizing schools for being top-heavy when it came to staff not directly involved with classroom instruction, Kobza said he thought the Eudora schools ran as efficiently as they could in terms of administrators.
"(Cutting down) is not a possibility unless we go without principals in our buildings," he said.
Operating without assistant principals and an assistant superintendent is possible because of the few discipline problems, Kobza said.
"That's a real credit to the community and the parental support we have," he said.