Topeka In the current state budget debate, Republican legislative leaders say public school funding can be cut without hurting classroom instruction.
“We are sensitive to cuts in education,” said House Speaker Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchinson. “We don’t want any of our cuts to affect instruction, and we think that can be done.”
O’Neal said from about 60 percent to 65 percent of school budgets are “instructional dollars.”
He and other Republicans have argued that funding cuts can be made on the noninstructional side.
But Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said what constitutes instructional funding and noninstructional funding often is up for debate.
Under the federal government’s definition, instructional funding includes salaries for teachers and paraprofessionals, instructional supplies and extracurricular activities, he said.
“Sports is considered a classroom but libraries are not” under the federal definition, he said.
He said often such items as school safety, transportation, food service, utility bills and insurance aren’t considered instructional expenses, yet they are needed to operate a school.
Several states are looking at proposals that would require schools to spend at least 65 percent of their funds on classroom expenses.
But Lawrence Superintendent Randy Weseman described such an effort as “a simplistic answer to a complex question.”
He said nurses, counselors and other support staff are not considered in the definition of classroom expenses. Yet, he said, those positions are ones that schools are expected to have.