To the editor:

Here is why knowing how to do math is vital to being a discerning citizen.

Depending on who you talk to and how you calculate actual figures, Kansas spends anywhere from 9.7 percent of its total budget on education to 36.9 percent. Using the governor’s own fiscal report, Kansas spends $587,681,234 on education, out of a total expenditure of $6,025,629,791, which is only 9.7 percent of the state budget.

So where are all these ultra conservatives who are crying in their milk about spending too much on education in Kansas getting their ridiculous figures of 50 percent-plus?

From people with agendas like their own, such as Mary Pilcher Cook, whose website has dead links for documents that are supposed to prove her claims, and the Kansas Policy Institute, which is a conservative group claiming it supports education, while seemingly trying to undermine the actual value of Kansas public education systems.

A quick search on the internet reveals why so many different groups can try to claim that Kansans are paying too much money to our public education systems – it all depends on how the figures are calculated and which elements of education are counted. A little fibbing helps, too. After all, who is going to check their figures?

Governing Magazine reports that Kansas spends $9,972 per pupil, which is down 5.5 percent since 2010. The U.S. average spending per pupil is $11,009. They also note that “schools … reliant on state funding (as opposed to) property taxes … have fewer total dollars but … more equity” across the state. In fact, “the largest spending spikes are found in districts relying on high-property values.” Recent changes to our state income tax systems has caused most Kansas school districts to rely more heavily on income from property taxes, and inequality is following.

What the naysayers against funding Kansas public education usually overlook are the costs necessary to attract and keep good faculty. In fact, benefits, especially health insurance, to faculty account for more than half of the per pupil costs.

Instead of acknowledging these seemingly uncontrollable expenses, the naysayers cry corruption, pointing to administrative expenses, which most deem unnecessary, thus claiming that our schools have no need of more money.

They don’t want us, after all, to realize that having the state create health care co-ops with medical practitioners and hospitals would be, overall, cheaper and more controllable, than paying health insurance companies, whose bottom line is always profit, to deliver health care to our state’s teachers and employees.

Economics 101 teaches an important principle: eliminating the middle man reduces expenses.

We need to remove the grip of insurance companies, unnecessary middle men, on our public employees and others reliant on government care by creating a one-payer health care system in Kansas. The money that would be saved for both the state employees and public school teachers could then be applied to improving the teachers’ salaries across the state, thus strengthening our ability to attract and keep excellent faculty, even in the smallest school district.

Ironically, the first health insurance company was created in 1921 to entice teachers to a school district in Texas.

Now, to save state money and to salvage our public education system, we need to eliminate health insurance middle men from the public education equation.