Cost Functions Should Not be Used to Make Education Spending Decisions

by Kansas Policy Institute


June 1 - Wichita - A cost study recommending a school funding increase upwards of $2 billion survived a peer review by a scholar the Legislature hired; but, another respected school finance scholar says cost studies should not be used to set funding levels.

Benjamin Scafadi, Ph.D., a professor of economics and director of the Education Economics Center at Kennesaw State University, says, “cost function studies do not provide valid and reliable estimates of the minimum 'cost' of achieving a given outcome.” 

Knowing the Legislature’s WestEd cost study would define the conversation on education spending and impact further judicial proceedings, Kansas Policy Institute partnered to do an independent peer review with Dr. Scafidi.  His findings disprove the notion that spending more money causes student achievement to improve. 

In response to the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Gannon V case, the Kansas Legislature recently contracted with a vendor conducting a $285,000 study to analyze the “cost” of educating public school students in grades K-12. The Legislature asked the vendor, WestEd, to “estimate the minimum spending required to produce a given outcome within a given educational environment.” WestEd used a “cost function” approach to estimate the costs of providing students in each public school in Kansas with an adequate education. 

Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, commented, “These cost studies may be done with the best of intentions, but they fail to provide results that are useful in guiding policy decisions. In practice they only take a partial look at one variable – spending – and ignore all other variables that impact learning.”

Scafadi said, “The estimates vary widely and do not track with historical data on spending and achievement.” The review outlined the reasons why supposed “cost” functions do not provide valid and reliable estimates of the minimum “cost” of achieving a given outcome.

“One glaring problem we found with the WestEd study is that researchers do not have access to data on all external factors that impact the cost of educating students.” Trabert said.

Scafidi’s study for Kansas Policy Institute included in its exhaustive review a complete recommendation of best practices that should be performed to “check carefully for robustness and reliability of results.”

His data determined it unreasonable to conclude that giving the Kansas public school system, as currently constituted, a large boost to spending would significantly improve student outcomes.

“Given the vast sums of taxpayer funds at stake, the Kansas Governor, Legislature, and the State Supreme Court should implement the five best practices, as laid out in my review, to discover the truth about the relationship between spending and valuable student outcomes.” Scafadi concluded.




Editor's Note: Such mathematical games accomplish little more than feed the lawyers who feast on endless court decisions that force the Kansas Legislature to raise taxes violating both the separation of powers and the people's right to determine fiscal policy.

Walgreen’s Pharmacy Leaves Something More To Be Desired

by Allen Williams


Observing operation at Walgreen’s pharmacy located at 78th and State Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas was a wonder to behold.  It is a modern drug dispensing facility with computer oversight, featuring a drive through, two service lines, an information window and a huge alphabetical prescription holding rack containing drugs for A to Z recipients, ready to dispense.

The first time I was there to have a prescription filled, the two service lines were six and seven persons deep and the drive through window processed a steady line of prescription orders.  (Eat your heart out McDonalds!) From what I could see there were a half dozen or so pharmacy techs of various nationalities scurrying about keeping the drive through window supplied and placing orders in the holding rack.  It was by far the most intensive activity in the entire store and undoubtedly responsible for Walgreen’s 2016 billion dollar profits.  It is for all practical purposes a highly successful retail network pharmacy.  But what about real healthcare?

Only one pharmacist oversaw this circus of activity that I could detect with who knows how many unseen individuals behind the scene hastily filling little plastic pill bottles with various medicines.  It was Obamacare’s assembly line medicine in full operation, a boon to the fortunate few who hold exclusive distribution status.: “The Obama administration decided to make a deal with the PhRMA to get them to support the legislation,” he told Morning Consult. “PhRMA got a number of favorable provisions in the legislation.”

As you might expect, in any quasi chaotic operation born of special interest deals, things were bound to go wrong.  In the multicultural- multinational drug market, the ‘mission statement’ is more important that the reality of care. Walgreen’s president, Greg Wasson claims: “One of the most unifying forces behind Walgreens 113 years of success is our purpose: to help people get, stay and live well.”

Really? But shouldn’t that process commence by ensuring that patients obtain ALL their prescribed medicines and not someone else's? After arriving at Walgreen’s about a month ago, I had requested my prescription records be transferred to Walgreens from CVS.  You AREN’T ALLOWED to retrieve your own prescription from a pharmacy under Obamacare; it has to be requested by ANOTHER PHARMACY. 

On March 27th, I went to get my 2nd prescription filled that clearly indicated there were two remaining refills on the bottle.  However, I was told at the counter that they had NO prescription records for that medication.  I informed them you should have the records as I had requested them to be transferred from CVS the last time I was at Walgreens.  But I had to request the transfer of my 2nd prescription a second time and indicated that I would return on Wednesday of that week to pick it up.  

When I arrived at the counter on Wednesday a multicultural tech informed me that my pain killing medication was ready. I didn’t have a pain killing medication, I replied.  “Oh, then your Prednisone prescription is ready”, the tech said.  I don’t have a Prednisone prescription either; I wouldn’t take that stuff I replied.  Makes you wonder if diabetic customers are getting the correct medication and dosages, hmmm?  Nothing quite like being knowledgeable about whom you’re serving.

But regarding my 2nd prescription they said: “CVS didn’t send that prescription to us because you have no refills remaining.”  But that wasn’t true as the prescription vial I handed Walgreens clearly displayed TWO refills and it had not yet reached the 12-month expiration limit. 

The pharmacy didn’t seem to care about the administrative foul-up and refused to honor my request for a few emergency pills to hold me over until I could get the doctor to write a new prescription because as their pharmacist told me “.. it wasn’t legal.”  KMART did this regularly.  So was it legal to push off narcotic pain killers and prednisone on me because they mistook my identity?  It doesn’t invoke much confidence on my part in their professional capabilities.  Instead they had my third prescription ready (which I didn’t need) and tried to get me to take that in lieu of what I requested.  Starting to get the picture, yet?

Discussion with the pharmacist led to an agreement for Walgreen’s to contact my doctor and their automated system would then call me when my 2nd prescription was filled.  But, there was no call from Walgreen’s automated system and I had to call it myself (and my doctor) to find out that my prescription was ready to pick up nearly a week later.  It doesn’t matter what you arrange with Walgreens, you will only get what they decide you can have.  Is it just me?  Well read some of the 1220 Walgreen complaints and decide for yourself.

CVS and Walgreens are battling it out to control the market for prescription drugs so customer care is way down the line.  Patient care comes in number four right behind legal liabilities, HHS directives and company policy.  Emphasis is on pushing the distribution sales of prescription drugs to the dehumanizing level, everything else is secondary.

I arrived at Walgreens’ on April 3rd to pick up the 2nd prescription, the pharmacist waited on me directly.  I informed him that Walgreen’s automated system didn’t call me and that I had to call it instead.  He did the usual security check with my birth date and then asked me to type in the last four digits of my telephone number which the system didn’t take.  This suggests that I quite possibly could have left Walgreens with narcotics never prescribed for me because of their malfunctioning system.  He continued to try to get the system to accept my phone number and I finally had to tell the Pharmacist to ring up my charges  as he wasn’t responsible for the malfunction. It was the people who installed it.  They could play with their computer later; I just wanted to complete my business and leave.

My first hint that Walgreen’s was more a greed driven enterprise than a healthcare outlet occurred when I was forced into their system from the collapse of KMART’s pharmacy.  And mind you, not that KMART provided inferior products or service but it simply wasn’t as good as Walgreen’s in marketing their slice of the Obamacare drug cartel.  KMART’s final pharmacy closure sent my prescription records to CVS, the bottom of the birdcage in prescription medicine.

The reader is well advised to seek other drug store providers if at all possible.