Kansas Politics and the School Formula
"The Governor proposed a block grant to fund public schools for the next two years. The theory of a 'block grant' is simple. The details are hard. Legislation has not been proposed yet to establish a block grant. The questions are many. School districts are waiting to see how state aid would be distributed if weighted enrollment for poor and special needs children are not factored in. School districts are also waiting to see what authority they may have to raise local property taxes for school district operating expenditures and what restrictions might be placed on those levies.
From the Governor's budget numbers, the block grant for 2016 combines four state aid sources: general state aid, local option budget state aid, capital outlay state aid and the revenue from the 20 mill state property tax levy. From 2015 to 2016, the block grant is a reduction of $127.4 million or approximately 3.1 % of this year's estimated total of school district general funds, special education state aid and local option budgets. Per pupil (for the weighted enrollment of 686,000 students), the reduction works out to $186 per student from today's base of $3,852.
The Governor does increase state funding for school employees contribution to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System by $90.6 million over the current year and increases bond and interest aid by $8 million but these dollars do not make it to the classroom for operating costs. Last March, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the school finance system was unconstitutional because the state was not fully funding state aid for local option budgets and capital outlay. It is hard to say how the Court will respond to a frozen block grant for two years.
The 'Kansas Education Achievement Report Card,2015' by the Kansas Association of School Boards compares student outcome and funding data with the other 49 states. Kansas ranks eighth in educational achievement, which covers a broad spectrum of measurements. The 7 states that rank ahead of Kansas spend more per student. In fact Kansas ranks ahead of 17 states that spend more per pupil. Kansas does have a larger percentage of children in poverty than the seven states that rank ahead of Kansas. Educational costs associated with poverty are much higher. This study ranks states exclusively on student outcomes and provides background information on funding and student characteristics." - Paul Johnson, Kansas Rural Center's Policy Watch