Diane DeBacker and Dave Trabert, who are considered as ideological rivals, have finally found common ground on February 6. They agreed during a Kansas legislative hearing that an educational test gap between the poor and the rich has widened.
Dave said that “Kansas has a two-tiered education system.” Dave is the executive director of the Kansas Policy Institute. This is considered to be a conservative think tank which is driven by free market principles. About half of the students are doing very well, but those students that are economically disadvantaged are considered to be several years behind the other students, writes Tim Carpenter of The Topeka Capital-Journal.
Commissioner DeBacker of the Kansas State Department of Education claimed that results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and separate state evaluations of student proficiency illustrated a clear differential in mathematics and reading. DeBacker also said that “We know we have a gap in terms of students living in poverty.”
For each K-12 student, base aid stood at $4,400 in 2008-09 and now has slipped down to $3,937 in the 2010-11 school year. The state standing that for the fourth grade that used to be in sixth place has also fallen to seventh place. The standings in other subjects are also falling very quickly.
Trabert was quoted as saying that “state rankings could be deceptive, because Kansas might fare better or worse in the analysis depending on the academic standards of other states.”
He went on to say that the lawmakers of Kansas and educators were looking at the deep growth of the funding that was reserved for at-risk students and this action didn’t seem to make any difference in the lives of low-income students. He said, “There is no system for adequately determining whether those investments are reaching the intended target.”
Trabert was reported as saying about the money that was reserved for at-risk students: “Is it actually being spent on at-risk? We don’t know.”
Senator Jeff Melcher said he was weary of education officials fixating on base aid figures. The discussion should mirror the entire $12,781 invested annually on each student in the state of Kansas.
The senator also said that it would be useful to devise a method by which we can identify and remove the least proficient five percent of teachers working public schools. He said that by replacing those educators with better teachers, this will have a major influence on learning in the classroom.
The senate minority leader was quoted as saying, “A danger of dramatically overhauling the state’s base aid formula is that the state’s diminished commitment will be masked”. He also said “weakening of financial support for education by the Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Sam Brownback would exacerbate disparities in the local property tax base available to school districts.”