In a video released on Youtube Thursday, Kansas Association of School Boards Vice-President for Advocacy Mark Tallman explained that the phrase ‘dollars to the classroom’ that is being bandied about on the campaign trail for governor doesn’t have an easy definition.
“We have a current state law which sets a state policy goal, but not a requirement on individual school districts,” said Tallman. “That goal says that 65 percent of money provided by the state should be spent in the classroom or on instruction.”
Classroom is not defined in the law. Instruction is defined by federal accounting guidelines. Instruction as defined by the feds accounts for 53.6 percent of all spending.
“This includes everything we spend to pay for teachers or paras or aides or coaches and also includes classroom resources like textbooks, technology, classroom materials,” said Tallman. “Most people would probably agree, these are certainly things into the classroom.”
Let’s add the actual classrooms into that number.
“Accounting for almost nine percent (8.8 percent) of expenditures, what’s called operations and maintenance,” said Tallman. “All utilities, heat, light, air conditioning, cleaning, custodial services, maintenance and school safety programs and insurance are included in this area.”
Acquiring land to put classrooms on or buildings to put them in is 2.3 percent of spending and debt service on bond issues to pay back building those classrooms is about 9.7 percent.
So, adding together all of those numbers, we’re already at 74.3 percent of spending and that’s not including other functions mandated by either state or federal law like transportation (3.9 percent) and food service (4.1 percent), or any administration or central office functions at all.
In fact, under current law about 19 percent of total expenditures are locked in to debt, food, transportation, special ed support services and federally mandated teacher professional development.
The bottom line is that without major changes in the way school finance works, which right now is only inflation correction away from being constitutional, there isn’t much moving of money that can happen and it all depends on how you count whether the goal that Kris Kobach is shooting for is already being met or not.