Topeka State education officials Tuesday were sounding the alarm.
Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis said public schools will see a $150 per student decrease in spending immediately because education costs have gone up and state leaders have said they will not make up the difference.
And, Dennis said, he expects Gov. Mark Parkinson to institute another cut on schools before the month is over to help balance the budget.
Lawrence School Supt. Rick Doll said the cuts in the Lawrence district have been bad and will get worse.
“We’ve cut so deep in the meat, it’s tragic,” he said.
Dennis said some districts will use emergency funds to bridge the revenue shortfall, but some districts don’t have much in reserve.
“Some will struggle big-time,” he told members of the State Board of Education. He said the state financial picture is the worst he has ever seen.
Doll said the district has already cut classified and administrative staff, and will now use funds that would have been used for instructional material and professional development to make up the $150 per pupil cut.
Cuts beyond that, Doll said, will be awful.
“You kind of feel like a boxer. You get knocked down and you get up again and you get knocked down again,” he said.
Since the state revenue crisis started last year, state leaders have whacked at the public school budget several times.
When the 2008-09 school year started, base state aid was $4,433 per pupil. It is now at $4,218 per pupil.
Increased enrollment, decreased property values, and a 13 percent increase in students receiving free lunches, has produced another budget hole that Parkinson said he won’t fill at this time. That brings per-pupil funding to $4,068, and Dennis said another reduction is likely.
Education Board member Walt Chappell, D-Wichita, said an increase in the number of students receiving free lunches reflects the poor economy but doesn’t necessarily mean it will cost more to educate those students.
But Education Board member David Dennis, R-Wichita, who teaches in the Wichita public schools, said the increase in free lunches does signal increased needs. He said many of those students are in families who “stay 30 days ahead of the landlord.” He added, “We see it every day in Wichita; it’s something that impacts those kids.”