The New Budget and Education

The Topeka Capital-Journal summarizes the new state budget. It’s $13 billion in total (though I don’t know if that’s general funds or all funds). And when it comes to spending reductions,  “Kansas public schools lost the most — $113 million. The Kansas Department of Administration took the largest percentage hit — 34 percent.”

Another article has this to say about a bill that was sent to the governor for approval:

The bill loosens limits on local option budgets. That’s extra spending districts finance with property tax levies to supplement state aid.

The law allows school districts to add 31 percent to their base state aid. But state aid is due to drop $116 per student during the fiscal year beginning July 1. That automatically would cut districts’ local option budget limits, costing them $44 million.

The bill allows districts to calculate local option budgets based on their base aid before cuts, allowing them to get more money.

The budget was balanced by across-the-board budget cuts in departments, of 5.25 percent. Is that how much school budgets were reduced? Somehow I doubt it.

Kansas K-12 public schools had already lost almost $33 million in base state aid and special education funds in previous rounds of cutting, and the latest budget-balancing plan takes away an additional $83 million [for a total of $116 million]. Base state aid, set at $4,400 per student last fall, will drop by $116 for the next school year.

For perspective, Kansas schools as a whole spent $12,188 per student during the 2007-08 year, according to the state’s Total Expenditure report. A cut of $116 per student? Not terribly significant–at least if schools were able to move funds around to areas where they are most needed.

The Lawrence Journal-World, for its part, had this to say about schools:

Under the budget-balancing plan, public school spending will be cut $83 million in addition to cuts of approximately $45 million in an earlier round.

That’s a total of $128 million, a bit higher than the $116 million cited by the Capital-Journal.

The LJW, in another article, points out that John Robb, an attorney for the school districts that filed suit against the state in the Montoy case, wasn’t happy with the reductions in state funding.  It offers yet another number:  “Since the start of the year, lawmakers have cut school funding by nearly $130 million as part of an effort to balance the budget.” But again, for perspective, state aid to schools in 2007-08 was $3.1 billion.

The Kansas City Star seems to have it right in an article by David Kepler. The headline is “Schools, coal plant come out on top as Kansas Legislature closes.” Here’s what it has to say about schools:

Schools: Yes, lawmakers cut more than $100 million in school spending. But it could have been a lot worse for public education, which eats up more state dollars than anything else.

The Star moves its articles off line pretty quickly; for now you can find the article here.

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