‘65 percent solution’ is part of the problem

To its credit, Gov. Sam Brownback’s school-efficiency task force recognized that the “65 percent solution” is itself a problem. In appointing the task force, Brownback complained that few school districts are spending 65 percent of their funding “in the classroom.” But as the task force members learned, whether schools meet that standard depends on what is counted. “There are a lot of things normal people would think are included in instruction that are not included in that definition at the present time,” task force chairman Ken Willard told lawmakers last week. Also, different districts have different needs. For example, fast-growing districts may need to spend more on capital improvements. “Our general belief is the 65 percent number is a bit arbitrary,” Willard said. The task force is recommending the state redefine what is included in the number. “If we are going to have a number, it should have some meaning,” Willard said. But the other big problem is that there is no research showing a relationship between the 65 percent threshold and improved student outcomes. It’s just a made-up number.