Under the governor’s proposal, Lawrence school district spending will be cut as indicated below.
Local Option Budget$89,880
Special Ed. LOB$17,553
Total Target for Cut$473,382
General Fund $869,642
Local Option Budget $269,589
Special Education $169,871
Special Ed. LOB $52,659
Professional Development $23,300 (funding eliminated)
Total Target for Cut $1,395,587
— Source: Kansas State Department of Education.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius’ plan to hold harmless public school finance actually does harm school districts in that it will result in less funding on a per pupil basis, officials confirmed Thursday.
“We’ve been through it before,” Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said. “What we don’t know now is what the bottom line will be.”
Facing a growing state budget deficit, Sebelius has proposed a slew of cuts, but the governor called for flat-funding of schools.
So how does that proposal actually result in a cut to schools? Here’s how.
During the last legislative session, state officials approved approximately $3.8 billion for public schools.
But in November, state officials readjusted upward the amount of school funding to take into account increased enrollment and an increase in the amount of funding needed for at-risk programs, which is based on an increase in free lunch enrollment.
But Sebelius’ budget proposal would keep the school funding at $3.8 billion.
Once the figures are penciled out under Sebelius’ plan, school districts must spread the same amount of funding over a larger student population that has greater needs. This means a $22 cut in base state aid per pupil for the current school year, and a $66 cut in the next school year.
“It is level funding, but it will result in a cut in base state aid per pupil,” said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards.
“The governor’s budget does include a cut in terms of choices that districts will have to make,” Tallman said.
For the Lawrence district, Sebelius’ budget plan means a cut of almost $475,000 this school year, and nearly $1.4 million next school year, according to the district.
Because the general fund money is cut, that means the local option budget, currently at 31 percent, goes down as well. The district will lose almost $290,000 from the cut in base state aid, creating a loss of almost $90,000 from the local option budget for the current year. There are also cuts in special education funding, the special education local option budget and driver’s ed funding that makes up the $475,000 net loss.
“Because we receive general state aid from the state, we’re also allowed a local levy,” said Weseman. “If general state aid is reduced, the local levy is reduced.”
School officials are hoping to get their message out because Republican legislative leaders are calling for further cuts to public schools.
“The rest of the Legislature will have to debate this and we are feeling right now that this is probably the best funding effort we’ll see,” said Weseman. “I think the governor’s proposal tried to find some middle ground, but it does produce some cuts.”
And spreading a flat level of funding over greater costs doesn’t take into account a $162 million increase that had been promised schools — but now is essentially gone because of the state’s budget woes.
If that amount were factored in, Lawrence schools face a total cut of about $3.1 million over two years.
“We’ll be reviewing our budgets and finding ways to scale back our program,” Weseman said. “Every day that goes by as we continue to operate, we’re spending money, so we’re going to need some kind of clear, firm indication from the Legislature and the governor’s office at some point at what the bottom line will be.”