Archive for Thursday, November 15, 2001

Study says state schools spending too much for administrative costs

November 15, 2001

In a prelude to next year's legislative debate on education funding, a local lawmaker and USD 232 official dispute the worth of a recent study on school finance.

Rep. John Ballou said school districts like De Soto need to make changes. The Gardner Republican said Kansas school districts are top-heavy and need to spend their money more wisely.

"Yes we're doing a good job, no one's denying that, but why should we be spending more on administration?"

A recent study released by the Legislative Post Audit Committee indicates that too much of school budgets are being spent on non-instructional personnel.

The committee based its findings on data from fiscal year 1998, examining where education dollars go in Kansas and four surrounding states - Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

But Deputy Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said there's nothing wrong with how education funds are being directed.

"The problem is with the study, the data is four-years-old and all states do not have the same categories for administrative costs," Zoellner said.

She explained that if she purchased a box of pencils they would be considered an administrative cost in Kansas even though the pencils would be distributed to teachers and students.

But the study indicates that it's not supplies that account for the hefty discrepancy between in- and out-of-classroom personnel cost - it's salaries.

The study showed that if Kansas held its out-of-classroom expenditures to the average of the other four states, the state would have saved $115 million in non-instruction costs for fiscal year 1998. It goes on to say that three-fourths of that amount went to non-instruction employee compensation.

Zoellner said the state is responsible for much of those administrative expenses. The state requires the district to conduct so many annual teacher and student assessments each year that acquiring additional personnel allows districts to do a better job of reaching high standards of education.

"Kansas students are at the top of all the states for test scores," Zoellner said. "And that is because we spend the money the way we do."

Ballou suggested though, that money spent in the classroom would achieve the greatest benefit.

"School districts need to do a better job of redirecting those funds to actual teaching," he said. "Money directly given to teacher's pay and materials seems better."

Ballou said he would recommend that school boards take a look at how funds can be redirected from non-instructional employees to those who provide actual instruction.

The results of the study left the committee with one conclusion: "The greatest potential for freeing up money to be spent on instruction lies in reducing the number of non-instruction staff Kansas school districts employ.

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