Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Comparing Apples and Studebakers

In the previous five blog posts, we discussed Peer States, Aspiration States, and High Impact States. We also looked at funding formula components and talked about funding fairness.  Let’s review what we found.

Peer States

We compared each state to Kansas on 10 measures; including those related to student demographics and population characteristics.  We defined similar to Kansas as within plus or minus one half a standard deviation of Kansas’s value.  We identified peer states as those states that were similar to Kansas on at least 6 of the 10 measures.  

Here are the Peer States, from most similar to least:
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Pennsylvania
  • Wisconsin

We concluded the following:
  • 5/7 peer states, or 70% spend more per pupil than Kansas.
  • 7/7 peer states, or 100% have lower student outcomes than Kansas on at least 8/14 outcome measures.
  • Kansas has fewer students per district, school, and staff than the majority of its peers.
  • Most of Kansas’ neighbor states are not on the list of peer states.  

Aspiration States

We compared each state to Kansas on 14 measures; including those related to student attainment and student achievement.  We defined aspiration states as those states that outperformed Kansas on at least 8 of these 14 measures.

Here are the Aspiration States, from those that outperform Kansas on the most measures to those that outperform Kansas on the fewest:
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Massachusetts
  • Vermont
  • Minnesota

We concluded the following:
  • Only five states outperform Kansas on a majority of student outcome measures.
  • All five Aspiration States spend more per pupil than Kansas.
  • Approximately half of the states had more students per district, school, and staff.
  • No aspiration state is also a peer state.

Higher Impact States

We compared each state to Kansas on 14 measures, including those related to student attainment and student achievement, while controlling for 16 measures, including those related to student demographics and population characteristics.  We defined higher impact states as those states that would outperform Kansas on at least 8 of 14 outcome measures if all states had the same student demographics and population characteristics.

Here are the higher impact states, from those that outperform Kansas on the most measures to those that outperform Kansas on the fewest:
  • Texas
  • Kentucky
  • Arkansas
  • Maryland

We concluded the following:
  • Only four states outperform Kansas on a majority of student outcome measures when controlling for student demographics and population characteristics.
  • None of the higher impact states outperform Kansas on more than 3/14 outcome measures without controlling for student demographics and population characteristics.
  • None of the high impact states were also identified as peer or aspiration states.

So What?

The question remains; how can we use this information?  We have created three different ways of comparing Kansas to other states, and each comparison is designed to answer different kinds of questions.  

  • By looking at our peer states, we can ask how states with similar student populations compare with Kansas on funding, organization size, student attainment, and student achievement.  
  • By looking at our aspiration states, we can ask how states that outperform Kansas on student attainment and student achievement compare on funding, organization size, student demographics, and population characteristics.
  • Using the higher impact states, we can look to states that  achieve better student outcomes than expected when holding school funding, student demographics, and population characteristics constant (to a higher degree than Kansas does) to see if there are aspects of their systems that would benefit Kansas.  

Here is the full list of comparison states:
  • Arkansas - High Impact
  • Illinois - Peer
  • Kentucky - High Impact
  • Maryland - High Impact
  • Massachusetts - Aspiration
  • Michigan - Peer
  • Minnesota - Aspiration
  • Nebraska - Peer
  • New Hampshire - Aspiration
  • New Jersey - Aspiration
  • Oregon - Peer
  • Pennsylvania - Peer
  • Texas - High Impact
  • Vermont - Aspiration
  • Washington - Peer
  • Wisconsin - Peer

As we move into discussions on school finance formulas, each type of comparison can be useful.  We can look to our peers to see how states with similar students fund their education system.  We can look to our aspiration states to see if we can find a connection between student success, funding, and particular aspects of school finance formulas.  We can look to the high impact states to see if there might be components to their school finance formula that help them perform above expectations to a higher degree than Kansas.  

We’ve identified school funding components and can compare them between states to see if there is some indication that schools with certain components addressed in certain ways have better student outcomes, and we’ve looked at some national fairness metrics and can see if there are areas where Kansas could improve compared to these other states.  All of this together should at least enable us to come up with some ideas for sharing and discussion as we look to defining a new funding formula and ensuring adequate and equitable funding for all Kansas schools.

Discussions such as these are complex, and there is rarely a single, clear, best approach.  Hopefully coming at the topic from multiple angles such as what we’ve described above will better enable us to come up with some ideas about what Kansas needs in order to improve student outcomes and to ensure the money we are spending is being used as effectively and efficiently as possible.  

To examine the data more closely, use the following links:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

No Fair, No Fair!

We’ve been talking a lot about what states we should be comparing Kansas to, and have come up with several methods.  We’ve also talked about what each state’s funding formula looks like.  In this blog post, we will look at the fairness of funding in Kansas.  

Bruce Baker at Rutgers University and his colleagues at the Education Law Center recently released the fourth edition of their report entitled “Is School Funding Fair:  A National Report Card.”  You can view the full report here:  http://www.schoolfundingfairness.org/National_Report_Card_2015.pdf

The report includes six rankings of funding fairness and three resource allocation indicator ranks.  The following is a description of each measure and an indication of where Kansas falls compared to other states.

Funding Fairness

Per Pupil Funding Level:   Overall level of state and local revenue provided to school districts, comparing each state’s average per-pupil revenue with that of other states.  Each state’s revenue level is adjusted to reflect differences in regional wages, poverty, economies of scale, and population density.

KS ValueKS Rank

Funding Distribution:  Distribution of funding across local districts within a state, relative to student poverty. Indicates whether a state provides more or less funding to schools based on their poverty concentration, using simulations ranging from 0% to 30% child poverty.   Indicates the percent of the lower poverty district funding received by higher poverty districts.

KS ValueKS Rank

Effort:  Differences in state spending for education relative to state fiscal capacity. “Effort” is defined as the ratio of state spending to state gross domestic product (GDP).

KS ValueKS Rank
Overall - Per Capita GDP$44,952
Overall - Effort Index0.037
Change 08-12-7.60%25
Change 11-122.90%7

Coverage:  Proportion of school-age children attending the state’s public schools combined with the ratio of median household incomes between private and public school students.

KS ValueKS Rank
Private/Public Household Income Ratio146%

Based on this data, it would seem that Kansas is doing relatively well in the areas of effort and coverage, but has more room for improvement in terms of per pupil funding amounts and funding distribution based on poverty levels.

Resource Allocation Indicators

Early Childhood Education:  Enrollment rates in early childhood education programs by income level. Access to early learning opportunities, especially for low-income students, is a key indicator of a state’s commitment to provide equal educational opportunities and reduce achievement gaps.

KS ValueKS Rank
% Low Income Enrolled40%
% Non-Low Income Enrolled50%
Enrollment Ratio by Income80%

Wage Competitiveness:  Uses wage data to compare compensation between teachers and non-teachers who have similar education levels, experience, and hours worked. The index is expressed as the ratio between teacher wages and non-teacher wages, and is presented at early career (age 25) and mid-career (age 45) to evaluate whether the teaching profession is economically competitive in each state.

KS ValueKS Rank
Wage Ratio at 2580%
Wage Ratio at 4568%

Pupil-to-Teacher Ratios:  This measures district staffing patterns, comparing pupil-to teacher ratios in high-poverty and low-poverty districts.  PTR fairness % indicates percent of teachers per pupil in high poverty districts compared to low poverty districts.

KS ValueKS Rank
Pupil Teacher Ratio at 10% Poverty14.00
PTR Fairness100%

Based on this data, Kansas does fairly well in terms of early childhood enrollment, but has room for improvement in terms of teacher wage competitiveness and the distribution of teachers based on poverty levels.

The state comparisons we do will include comparisons on these values and ranks.

To examine the data more closely, use the following links:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Secret Formula

So now we’ve come up with sixteen states to compare with Kansas - seven peer states, five aspiration states, and four higher impact states.  The next question is, what do we want to compare when looking at these states?

We should, of course, start with the variables that were used in the initial analysis.  But what else?  Since the focus right now in Kansas is on both the amount of funding and on how that funding is distributed, we should look at funding amounts (which were included in our initial analysis) and on differences in how money is allocated.

Luckily we can benefit from someone else’s efforts when it comes to the later.  Deborah A. Verstegen, a professor at the University of Nevada, surveyed each State Department of Education to gather information of their finance policies and programs in effect during the 2014-15 school year.  You can read more about the work she did here:  https://schoolfinancesdav.wordpress.com/

The following are the categories Verstegen presented in the survey, and Kansas’ responses on each:

District-Based Components

Density/Sparsity of Small Schools
It is a linear transition formula ranging from 100 students up to 1,622 students. The low enrollment weight of districts having enrollments of 100 or fewer is 1.014331 times the BSAPA per pupil. Each change of one pupil changes the low enrollment weight down or up inversely to the enrollment change. High enrollments, above 1,622 and over, are weighted an additional 0.03504 times the BSAPP.
Grade Level Differences
Declining Enrollment or Growth
A school district determines their enrollment by using the highest enrollment of current year, prior year, or a three-year average of the current year and the two prior years.
Capital Outlay and/or Debt Service
Districts may make a mill levy of up to 8 mills for capital projects and equipment. The state provides state aid to school districts based upon the amount of taxes levied. The state aid rate for each district is computed based on the assessed valuation per pupil of the district, with the lower valuation per pupil districts getting a higher state aid rate.
All districts transporting pupils living 2.5 miles or more from the school receive the state average cost per pupil based on a linear-density formula. The formula takes into account the per pupil cost of transportation, density of the district in terms of pupils transported, and square miles in the district.
Charter Schools
Charter schools are part of the local school district in Kansas. As such, charter schools are public schools and receive the same funding as traditional schools.

Student-Based Components

Special Education
State provides 80% of special education transportation costs and $27,900 in categorical aid per instructional unit. That amount is paid on all certificated education teachers, while paraprofessionals are paid .4 or $11,160 per full-time paraprofessional.
Low Income / Comp Ed / At-Risk
Additional funding is provided for at-risk students. The formula is based on the number of students qualifying for free meals with the additional weight set at 0.456. Additional funds are available for high density at-risk percentages. High Density Weighting: Districts in which their students on free meals exceed 35% of their total enrollment.
English Language Learner/Bilingual Education
State aid is weighted at 0.395 per eligible pupil, based on the full-time equivalency enrollment of bilingual students receiving services.
Gifted and Talented Education
Does not apply. Paid under the special education reimbursement schedule.
Career and Technical Education
Weighting determined by multiplying the FTE enrollment in vocational education programs by a factor of 0.5; resulting funds must be spent on vocational education.
Preschool Education
A limited number of 4-year old at-risk students are funded in the general fund formula at 0.5 full-time equivalency. Three and four year old children with an individualized education plan are funded at 0.5 full-time equivalency through the general fund formula.

Revenue and Expenditure Information

State Mandates Restricting Revenue or Expenditure Increases
The base state aid per pupil is set by the legislature and is the amount that establishes the spending authority of school districts. That amount is $3,852 for 2014-15.
Property Assessment Ratios Used/Legal Standards For Property Assessment
Residential property is assessed for tax purposes at 11.5% of full market value.
Measure of Local Ability To Support Schools
Under the formula, all school districts levy 20 mills on the assessed value per pupil for the general fund and the state makes up the difference between the budget authority and the 20 mills.
School District Budget and Tax Rate Procedures/Sources of Local Revenue
Supplemental General Fund (Local Option Budget or LOB) Districts can budget up to 30% of their general fund budget providing certain criteria are met (33% in 2014-15). Supplemental General State Aid for the LOB is based on funding that would be generated for the district at the 81.2% AVPP statewide and is equalized minus local taxes. See * 2014-15 Edition - School District and Quality Performance Act and Bond and Interest State Aid Program - Attachment I, LOB.
State Aid for Bond and Interest State aid is provided for bond issues based on the assessed valuation per pupil of the district. See * 2014-15 Edition - School District and Quality Performance Act and Bond and Interest State Aid Program.
State Aid for Capital Outlay Districts can levy up to 8 mills for capital outlay and the state aid rate for bonds (above) is multiplied by the dollars levied to determine the capital outlay state aid).
State Support for Nonpublic Schools
Drivers Education aid at $90 per pupil.

As can be imagined, each state differs greatly in terms of what components are included in their funding formulas, and how each of those components are addressed.  The state-by-state comparisons we do will include a listing of these categories and how each state addresses them.  

To examine the data more closely, use the following links: