Myth Buster

These publications present common myths regarding public education and provide multiple facts to back up the truth.

MYTH Kansas must prohibit further implementation of the 2010 Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in order to avoid invasive student data collection. Kansas can just continue to use the pool of existing assessment items currently housed by the University of Kansas.


FACTSThe Kansas Department of Education is not adopting new, invasive student data reporting practices. Rather, Kansas merely updated the state education standards, which it does routinely every seven years, and is revising the associated state tests and

other accountability tools accordingly. Kansas would be engaged in this process whether we implemented the Common Core mathematics and English language arts standards or some other college and career ready standards and will do so again in 2017 in compliance with State statue. Implementation of the CCSS did not have federal data collection requirements.


Fact 1 – Data Privacy.  The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) and local school districts maintain student records for a variety of reasons, from instructional purposes, to determining eligibility for special programs (free/reduced lunch, special education), forwarding transcripts for college applications, to meeting state accountability reporting requirements. Data elements include date of birth, race/ethnicity, gender, program participation including status related to English language proficiency or special education, performance on state assessments, as well as students who qualify for free/reduced priced meals. Any KSDE reports with student data are first aggregated into groups, such as district and building level data, before disseminated; no student level data are shared.1 The adoption of the CCSS has no impact on the State’s data collection requirements. The KSDE DOES NOT collect information on political affiliations or beliefs; sexual behavior or attitudes; religious practices, affiliations or beliefs or income of the student or family. Furthermore, the Family Educational Right to Privacy Act protects the privacy of student education records.2


Fact 2 – Kansas Assessments. Kansas has worked with the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas for over 30 years to fulfill summative evaluation goals for K-12 public education.3 The Center has continually analyzed and revised their bank of assessment test items for quality and security purposes. Rigorous assessment necessitates that some degree of new items and tests will always be needed. At present, Kansas is collaborating with a consortium of states, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)4 to develop new assessments for mathematics and English language arts standards. Because Kansas is a governing state in SBAC, the state has a vote on all major decisions. The SBAC has no membership fees – a significant savings to our state and those in the consortium. Over one million students participated in the field test of items in the spring 2013 and another million are anticipated to participate in spring 2014.


1 See KSDE Fact Sheet on Data Collection and Common Core

3 CETE and Kansas Assessment Program

   4 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC)

Publication of the  

Kansas PTA Advocacy Leadership (2013).

Karen Wagner

Brian Hogsett

Mary Sinclair, PhD



MYTH Kansas will experience minimal disruption in our local school districts if the 2010 Common Core State standards (CCSS) are prohibited. Kansas could just revert back to the old standards, save money in the process and avoid invasive student data collection.


FACTS: Prohibiting the current mathematics and English language art standards would create major disruptions in Kansas classrooms.1 Schools across the state have implemented

the new standards, in full or incrementally, since they were adopted in October 2010.2 A legislative mandate to override the judgment and expertise of our elected school board members would require Kansas educators to disregard years of investment in time, resources and energy expended to strengthen educational outcomes for Kansas youth.



FACT 1 – Standards Cycle. Changing the standards now, prior to the Kansas 2017 scheduled review period, would create an undue financial burden on the state in addition to a step backwards for Kansas kids. The allocated budget has been expended in the recent process of updating Kansas education standards across four content areas (language arts, math, history/government, science – along with English for speakers of other languages). Each core subject required for graduation is to be reviewed every seven years according to state statute.3


FACT 2 – Textbooks. Pulling the state standards will not eliminate textbook expenses. Local school districts and school boards make their own decisions regarding which curriculum resources to purchase, updating textbooks on a routine cycle or as financially feasible. While many districts have aligned recent resource purchases with the new state standards, it is an inevitable expense regardless of whether or not standards have changed.


FACT 3 – Professional Development. Educators routinely participate in professional development throughout the school year, an evidenced-based practice that supports continual school improvement effort.4 The content of the professional development is a local decision, whether focused on Common Core, Kansas College and Career Ready standards, school safety, or some other local priority. Professional development is a basic line item of district operating budgets.



FACT 4 – Technology. The K-12 Kansas Assessment system has been computerized for several years, well before the CCSS were developed.5 Kansas public school students have taken the state assessments online since 2005, placing our state at the top of the nation in terms of technology readiness. The call to prohibit Common Core because of associated technology costs is a non-issue.


FACT 5 – ACT Test Alignment The high school ACT standardized tests are being redesigned and aligned with the mathematics and reading CCSS, effective as early as 2014-2015 school year.6 ACT has also developed an assessment system for grades 3-10 – called ASPIRE. A few Kansas school district have even applied for permission to use the ASPIRE and ACT as their assessment measures, while the Kansas assessment system is in transition. Kansas students who choose to take the ACT will be better prepared with the adoption of our new state standards. 



1 KS Commissioner of Education, Diane DeBacker (SMAC PTA Action Alert, email communication, May 31, 2013).

6 ACT and Common Core Standards

Publication of the  

Kansas PTA Advocacy Leadership (2013).

Karen Wagner

Brian Hogsett

Mary Sinclair, PhD




MYTH:  Common Core State Standards are a federal government takeover of K-12 public education and must be stopped.


FACTS:  The federal government is not taking over Kansas schools. Nor have Kansas schools lost local control of K-12 education. The initiative to develop the Common Core States Standards (CCSS) was a voluntary effort on the part of

states leaders to raise education standards.1 The Kansas College and Career Ready Standardsin mathematics and English language arts & literacy were adopted, as part of a routine seven-year cycle to update and realign Kansas K-12 education goals with the demands of a rapidly changing global society.


FACT 1 – LOCAL CONTROL. Local school boards across Kansas have full authority to determine the curriculum. Adoption of the new state standards does not override the constitutional right of “local public schools under the general supervision of the state board of education [to] be maintained, developed and operated by locally elected boards.3  Kansas school districts continue to make the decisions regarding how students are taught.4The State Board of Education also has complete authority to change the state’s education standards as warranted, regardless of federal incentives.5

StandardsSkills and concepts that youth are expected to acquire by the end high school.

CurriculumProgram and instructional materials chosen by local districts and school boards, used by teachers to help students meet state standards.

Lesson PlansInstructional plans and materials prepared and selected by teachers.


FACT 2 – STATE INITIATIVE. The process of revising and updating education standards is the responsibility of the Kansas Department of Education, under the leadership of the State Board of Education. The process involves input from experts and key stakeholders, through critical analyses, public forums, and online comment periods, along with repeated presentations and updates by the Department of Education to the Board, often extending over a period of years (see Science standards for example).6While Kansas was an active member of the CCSS development teams, enhancements were made for our own state under the ‘15% addition rule’.7 For example, the Kansas mathematics standards review committee added two major topics (probability and statistics, algebraic patterning).8 The committee further recommended that local school districts retain the authority to decide in what grade levels to incorporate these additions. In essence, Kansas considers the CCSS as a ‘floor not a ceiling’ and enriched the expectations of the Common Core to best fit the State’s priorities.


FACT 3 – ROLE OF FEDERAL FUNDS.  No federal money was attached to the State’s 2010 adoption of the CCSS in mathematics and English language arts. While the U.S. Department of Education requires that each state have an accountability system in place for K-12 public education, the federal government does not dictate how Kansas educates students or how we assess our public education system; the specifics are up to each state.9 The majority of federal education funds Kansas does receive (less than 10% of Kansas education budget, and underfunded) are for mandated instructional support to special needs students (disabled, poor, second language) and program support to feed hungry students during the school day (free/reduced lunch program). The associated federal rules and regulations are in place to ensure that the funds are used for the intended purposes.

Kansas Education Standards Status:10



MYTH: Kansas public schools are “failing” because some fail to make AYP.

FACTS: Adequate yearly progress (AYP) is the process established by federal law to judge whether our public schools are on track to help students achieve, as measured by state assessments. The limited ‘failure’ of some schools to make AYP does not mean our public school system is failing. If for example, 290 students among 325 tested pass the state standards (89% of an entire student group), the school could still “fail to make AYP”.  By law, the target goal is to get 100% of students to standards by the spring of 2014. The line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’ to make AYP this current school year, requires about 90% of all student groups to meet state standards in math and reading, and have an average attendance rate of 90%, and a graduation rate of 80%, or growth toward the target goals must be at least 3% to 5% annually.1

Fact 1.  AYP is federal law.  AYP is a requirement of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and a central part of the law’s accountability component initiated in 2001. AYP is based on the premise that all students will achieve a defined set of standards by the 2013-2014 school year, including historically underachieving student groups:

  • low income families
  • youth with disabilities
  • English language learners
  • racial/ethnic groups.1


Fact 2.  Failure to make AYP does not mean our public school system is failing.  If just 5 youth in one of the smaller student groups scores below standards on the math assessment, for example, while the remaining student groups and student body as a whole achieve all the standards, the school can still “Fail to Meet AYP” and possibly the district. Despite successfully helping over
90% of its youth achieve state standards, such school communities have been labeled a ‘failure’.2


FACT 3.  AYP annual targets are always rising, as are the standards.   “Annual targets” refers to the percentage of students who must meet Kansas standards in order for a school to make AYP. When first mandated, the 2002 annual target was about 50% of students and has risen incrementally each year to the 100% target in 2014.3 In addition, Kansas standards are also rising with the recent adoption of the Common Core State Standards. More kids are expected to reach an even higher bar.


FACT 4.  Most schools and districts are making AYP.  In 2011, 84% of public schools  (1,148 of 1,367) representing 73% of  districts (211 of 289) made AYP.4


Fact 5.  Standardized test scores should  be interpreted with caution.   The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is not explicitly aligned with the Kansas standards as are the Kansas State Assessments. NAEP statistics are often strategically selected by public school opponents in an attempt to portray the illusion of failure (see KS PTA Myth Busters Issue 4). While these two rigorous tests are highly correlated, they are constructed differently each for their own unique purpose.  The tests, for example, emphasize different aspects of reading and math competencies. More importantly, these two assessments by law established different standards, also referred to as “cut scores”. For these methodological differences alone, NAEP scores should be interpreted with caution. In fact, NAEP itself isn’t sure what the cut scores (basic, proficient) measure.


“The [National Academy of Sciences] Panel concluded that "NAEP's current achievement-level setting procedures remain fundamentally flawed. The judgment tasks are difficult and confusing; raters' judgments of different item types are  internally inconsistent; appropriate validity evidence for the cut scores is lacking; and the process has produced unreasonable results"… A proven alternative to the current process has not yet been identified.5



1 KSDE (2011).  Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).  2011-2012 Fact Sheet.  See also The Center for Public Education (2006). A guide to the No Child Left Behind Act. Standards-based reform and a short history.

2 KSDE (2011).  K-12 Reports. Report Card 2010-11:School Adequately Yearly Progress.

3 KSDE (2012).  Kansas Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) Revised Guidance for 2011-2012.  

4 KSDE (2011).  Public Schools and District Not Making AYP.

5 NCES (2009). NAEP Technical Documents.

Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).  

Debbie Lawson  

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD


MYTH: Kansas public schools are “failing” because NAEP scores are “low” and have remained relatively stable.  


FACTS: Kansas public school performance is consistently in the top 10 to 15 nationally, with at least 4 out of every 5 students scoring at or above basic performance levels. Every state in the top 10 except South Dakota spends

more per pupil than Kansas.1,2,3 While rank and per pupil expenditures are indicators of Kansas public schools’ efficiency3, the percentage of youth scoring at or above basic performance levels is a reflection of effectiveness.


… Some public school opponents are arguing that “proficiency matters, not rank.” Kansas PTA finds value in both types of indicators, as well as, a common understanding of the term proficient


Fact 1. Kansas public schools’ performance consistently ranks high. Kansas public schools rank 9th nationally and 3rd regionally on the combined 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) score - where 80% of all students’ combined scores were at basic or higher performance levels.1


Fact 2. Kansas schools continue making significant progress. About 85% (B+) of Kansas students performed at or above state standards in reading and math in 2010, up from less than 60% in 2001.1,4


More Indicators of Success . . .

Multiple indicators of school performance produce a more valid measure than any one single reliable outcome indicator can provide. Indicators of Kansas performance are excerpted here from KASB (2012):1

  • Student proficiencies in reading and math have increased 40% over the past decade on the Kansas State Assessments.
  • Over the past 10 years, Kansas improved high school completion rates across three different measures and all exceed the national average.
  • Kansas students have an overall ranking of 7th in the nation in college readiness.
  • College completion rates exceed the national average.  
  • Kansas public school achievement exceeds that of private school systems with similar students as measured by the state assessments.
  • Kansas ranks 7th nationwide among low income students on NAEP tests and exceeds the national average for the same population in private schools.


Fact 3. The performance bar is rising, from basic to proficientProficiency refers here to student achievement levels in relation to education standards. NAEP uses 4 levels of student achievement at each grade level in relation to national standards: below basic, basic, proficient, advanced. The Kansas Assessments use 5 levels: academic warning, approaches, meets, exceeds, exemplary. In keeping with federal law enacted in 2001, states across the country adopted standards and set the starting performance point, as mandated by law, at the lowest-achievement demographic group or school in the state.5 On average state standards align with NAEP’s current basic performance level.6  Today, 48 states and territories including Kansas are raising the bar beyond basic in alignment with recent changes to federal law and shifting standards to what NAEP now defines as proficient, where every single student is expected to be college and career ready.7



Notes.  Based on 2011 NAEP scores. Discrepancies in the original table are assumed to be due to rounding error. Kansas NAEP national rankings:  4th grade reading—14th8th grade reading—20th4th grade mathematics—7th8th grade mathematics—10th.



Kansas Association of School Boards (January, 2012). Focus on … what we know about student achievement and school improvement in Kansas.  Prepared by Mark Tallman.

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2011). NAEP State Profiles.  

Education Law Center. (2010). Is school funding fair?   See also Standard & Poor’s Efficiency Study (2007). 

Kansas Department of Education (KSDE). (2010). Report Card 2009-2010. State of Kansas.   

No Child Left Behind (2001). Action Briefs. What is the process for establishing AYP?  

National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). (2009). Mapping state proficiency standards.  

Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI). (2011). About the Standards.   See also Kansas Common Core Standards Fact Sheet (2011-2012).

Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).  

Debbie Lawson  

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD




MYTH:  Kansas school districts sit on millions of extra dollars at the end of every school year.  So, why do the public schools keep asking the state for more money and laying off teachers when they have excess in their reserve funds?


FACTS: Districts’ cash balances are not ‘extra, excess’ money.  The June fund balances can be likened to a district savings or escrow account.  Districts essentially cannot exhaust their reserves because the dollars have already been allocated - most commonly for ongoing operating costs (e.g., teachers salary & benefits, vendors), capital outlay (e.g., bricks and mortar upkeep), bond and interest payments (e.g., debt), dedicated tax sources (e.g., new textbooks, student materials, summer school), or insurance and liability claims.1

Fact 1. Reserves prevent cash flow interruptions. Reserve funds safeguard districts’ ability to

pay vendors and meet payroll throughout the school year. Carryover is a critical accounting tool that allows timely cash flow between the continuous demand of bills and the periodic payments from state, federal and local sources that crisscross school years.  For example, the state’s first special education payment to districts does not come until mid-October two months after the school year begins and the second major property tax installment is made in June just as the school year is ending.


Fact 2. Mid-year cuts challenge local coffers and budget estimates. In 2009 and 2010, our elected officials cut the state’s contribution to public education mid-year.2 Local communities were left holding the state’s portion of the bill. The first time this occurred, districts’ options were limited after accounting for contractual obligations through years-end. Given subsequent lack of consensus and extreme differences among current legislators on how to balance the state budget, school boards have had to plan their based on the least amount of proposed state funding. This need to anticipate mid-year cuts and worst case scenario has required many districts to cut overly deep, which explains in part recent increases in July 1 fund balances.


Fact 3. Late payments from the state. The state has had its own cash flow problems, resulting in delayed payments to the schools.  Districts are required to pay their bills on time and reserve funds have enabled them to meet their obligations.


Fact 4. Districts total operating reserves equates to a few days’ worth of expenses.3 For the academic year ending June 2011, Kansas public schools’ total operating fund balance was just under $870 million (excluding capital, debt and federal funds).1  While a large sum, this amount is less than best practices recommends equating to about $3 million per district on average ($868,393,468 divided by 286 school districts). The Government Finance Officer’s Association suggests districts have 3 months of expenditures in reserve or $4.8 million on average ($5,589,549,135 / 286  districts / 12 months * 3 months).4


Fact 5.Limited impact of SB111. Not enough money is not enough money, no matter how districts are allowed to slice and dice it. House substitute for Senate Bill 111 is a one-year temporary provision passed by the legislature to ease restrictions and allow school boards and districts to spend selected unencumbered balances for general operating expenses. This short term accounting flexibility is not a long term solution for the significant state funding shortfall that has grown over the decades and has been exacerbated by recent economic problems (see Kansas PTA Myth Busters—Chronic Underfunding of the Base State Aid)5.


Fact 6.Even deeper funding shortfalls on the horizon. Additional reasons why districts may be cautious about spending down their reserve funds: $492 million in temporary federal stimulus money expires this year, a one-time transfer of $205 million from the state highway fund to the state general fund ends as well, and the portion of the 1-cent sales tax benefiting education is scheduled to expire June 2013.



1 Kansas Department of Education. Cash Balance Annual Reports (2011).

2 Kansas Department of Education.House Bill 2383. (May 2011).

3 Wichita Public Schools. Year-End Cash Balances (July 2011).

4 GFOA.  KSDE. Total Expenditures.

5 Kansas PTA Myth Busters.Chronic Underfunding of Base State Aid, Issue 2.

Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).

Debbie Lawson

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD


MYTH:  Why not cut education funds?  Everybody needs to tighten their belts and sacrifice.  Besides, education just got a huge budget increase a couple of years ago. The public schools already have billions of dollars.


FACTS: The 2006-2009 increase to the state’s education budget was the legislature’s correction for their nearly billion dollar shortfall to our public schools that accumulated over a 15 year period.1 Failure to keep up with inflation and to allocate funds based on actual costs severely eroded funding for classroom instruction as measured by Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP).2



BSAPP—Base State Aid Per Pupil
is the starting amount of state fiscal aid each school district receives per student. Your legislators and the governor decide what this amount will be each spring.


Fact 1. Base aid is short $712 per pupil according to law.3  Before the national economic downturn, K-12 base state aid funding was already in the hole. This hole grew so deep over many years that a lawsuit was brought to the Kansas Supreme Court.1  Kansas legislators were found to be out of compliance with their own laws in 2005 for failing to “make suitable provision for finance” of public schools as required by our Constitution. The statutory base state aid was set at $4,492 for FY2010 and beyond, in alignment with cost estimates found in the bipartisan 2006 Legislative Post Audit study. Today’s base is $3,780. According to law then, the Legislature has underfunded our public schools by at least $712 per pupil. The $750 million dollar correction made between 2006 and 2009 has been eliminated due to cuts, even though the state is currently projecting a surplus in received revenues.


Fact 2. Base aid is short $1,961 per pupil according to inflation.4  Our elected officials have cut the operating budgets for our classrooms by about 34%, when the purchasing power of today’s base state aid is adjusted for inflation. Beginning in the 1992-93 school year when the school finance formula was first overhauled, the equivalent base aid for FY2011 would be $5,741. Today’s base is $3,780. According to inflation then, our the Legislature has underfunded our public schools by at least $1,961 per pupil.


Fact 3. Base aid is short $2,797 per pupil according to actual costs.2  If our elected officials adhered to the cumulative evidence validated by the Division of Legislative Post Audit and continued to adequately fund our classrooms, base aid for outcomes this school year would be $6,577.  Actual costs are nearly double what our remaining teacher’s, resource staff and administrators have at their disposal today to fulfill educational expectations that continue to rise. Today’s base is $3,780. According to rigorous bipartisan research then, the Legislature has underfunded our public schools by at least $2,797 per pupil. 


Fact 4. Public education is the primary responsibility of the states.  “Educating children is to the state government as national defense is to the federal government: it is the state’s primary function and the lion’s share of the state’s budget. And that is as it should be. …  we need to make sure we target our funding in the right places to give children the foundation they need for success” (Governor Brownback, 2011).5  But the opposite has occurred – classrooms have been stripped of adequate resources. Will the Governor fulfill his stated objective? If so, when? By speaking up, we can help hold him to his promise.



1Kansas Supreme Court Decision, Montoy v. State (2006).

2Legislative Division of Post Audit (2006).


4Bureau of Labor Statistics.

5State of the State Address (Jan 2011). Governor Brownback.

Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).  

Debbie Lawson  

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD

MYTH:  Parents and teachers should not worry about public school funding, because the state education budget was increased for both this year and next.


FACTS: Devil is in the details. Yes, the total state budget for primary and secondary education (the K-12 budget, excluding higher education) has increased the past few years. However, the apparent increase in total funds obscures the fact that key line items within the budget

– those that support classroom instruction – have seen sharp declines. Moreover, the current total budget is actually down from its peak in 2009, when dollars were allocated based on the actual costs to our public schools rather than on the amount of funds available.1


Fact 1. Total K-12 Budget is Up and Down. The State’s total portion of the K-12 budget is up from fiscal year (FY) 2010, but was cut from over $3.1 billion in FY2009 to less than $2.7 billion in FY2010 – a reduction of over $435 million.2 Recent increases in the State’s total budget have yet to reach the 2009 allocation, nor have they kept pace with cost of living increases.



Fact 2. Instruction Line Item Decreased. The major portion of the State’s K-12 education budget that can used to support instruction has been severely cut by the legislature and Governor (measured by base state aid per pupil – BSAPP) to levels well below 1992 allocations.  How is that figured?  BSAPP was reduced to $3,780 for the 2011-12 school year. The equivalent buying power of $3,780 in 2011 would be about $2,350 in 1992.3  So today’s BSAPP has even less purchasing power than was allocated in 1992, which was set at $3,600. Moreover, the bipartisan cost study of 2006 (and state law), determined that the base cost per pupil is $4,492.1  Thus at a minimum, our classrooms are underfunded by $712 per student relative to the actual costs for a school to meet education standards required by law.    What do these cuts mean?…  more teacher layoffs, increased class sizes, increased fees, school closings, elimination of resources that help to keep youth engaged and on track to graduate and fewer students meeting standards to name a few. Meanwhile, education standards continue to rise yearly, in alignment with state and national mandates designed to prepare all our youth to participate in a global society as well as compete in regional markets.



Fact 3. State Employee Pension Line Item Increased. The Governor’s increase in the State’s portion of the K-12 budget is directed primarily to public employee retirement funds (which includes teachers) and to bond payments for buildings or equipment. This recent increase to KPERS serves to shore up the State’s pension fund and protect our State’s bond rating.  Nonetheless, the State needs to find a way to honor its commitment to KPERS, without jeopardizing the instruction our youth receive in Kansas public schools.


Fact 4. What’s in a Budget?  The bulk of state aid to school districts that comprises the total K-12 budget falls under one of the following categories (or line items): general state aid (used to support instruction),  supplemental state aid (referred to as the Local Option Budget and also used to support instruction), special education (used to support instruction), KPERS (for Kansas public employees retirement system, including teachers), capital outlay aid and capital improvement aid (used primarily for buildings and equipment).5 About 60% of the total K-12 budget comes from the State General Fund and the other 40% of revenues are primarily  from federal and local sources.



1Legislative Division of Post Audit (2006).

2Kansas Division of the Budget, Comparison Reports (2012, p.71; 2011, p.54; 2009).

3Bureau of Labor Statistics

4Kansas Department of Education (2010).

5Kansas Education Budget (2012, p. 125-129).

Publication of the Kansas PTA Advocacy Team (2011).  

Debbie Lawson  

Nancy Niles Lusk

Mary Sinclair, PhD