School district scores 100 percent in spending efficiency
Twenty-one of Kansas' school districts, including Baldwin City, are achieving 100 percent efficiency for spending and student learning, according to a Standard & Poor's study.
The financial services firm's report is the latest in a series of reviews conducted through a contract with the state that is funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In the latest study, Standard & Poor's analyzed school districts to determine how efficiently they spend their money.
Standard & Poor's reviewed data from 257 of the state's 296 school districts, looking at how much money they spent, how well students did on state math and reading tests, and how many poor, disabled and English-language learning students they had.
The scores ranged from 60 percent efficiency to 100 percent efficiency, and the state average was 85 percent.
One of the 21 districts that received a perfect score was Baldwin City, with 1,440 students, south of Lawrence. Alison Bauer, Baldwin City school board president, said she was happy to hear the district was recognized for its efficiency.
"The study speaks to the great job that our administration and staff do," she said. "Obviously, the right choices are being made to spend our money the best way possible."
Efficiency in the district meant cutting art programs that Bauer said she believed created a "well-rounded" student. She said standardized test preparation has consumed classroom time instead, and it has proven successful in that area as a result.
"I feel like we've cut things down to the bone," she said. "The negative part of this is we are efficient, but we don't have a lot of extras that we would like to have."
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said the review identified districts making full use of educational resources while also pointing less efficient districts toward improvement opportunities.
"We cannot spend our way to excellence, but we can achieve excellence through strategic investments in the right areas," Sebelius said. "This study is a road map of what works and what doesn't. Every Kansas child, in every corner of the state, deserves a first-class education. This report helps us get the best return on our investment."
Other districts with a 100 percent rating were Arkansas City, Ashland, Brown County, Deerfield, De Soto, Dodge City, Gardner-Edgerton, Great Bend, Halstead, Kismet-Plains, Lansing, Leoti, Lyons, Newton, Osawatomie, Rolla, Shawnee Mission, Waconda and West Elk.
Six districts with a 99 percent rating were Durham Hills, Olathe, Hays, Blue Valley, Scott County and Valley Center.
The Altoona-Midway district had the lowest score: 61.8 percent.
Michael Stewart, director of Standard & Poor's school evaluation services, said the state districts were diverse in student performance, spending levels and enrollment characteristics.
"It's because of this diversity that we believe improved efficiency is possible for any district that is willing to put forth the effort and learn from other districts that have successfully managed their resources," he said.
The Standard & Poor's staff will give a full report in July to a state commission that is reviewing continued education reform. The 2010 Commission was created by legislators to study issues and make recommendations for changes in policy and funding.