Topeka A state committee on Friday sought to put the brakes on further cuts to education.
The Legislative Education Planning Committee adopted a recommendation that the state not seek federal permission to cut public school and higher education funding below 2006 budgetary levels. After several rounds of cuts this year, both areas are close to that level of funding.
The move represents a pre-emptive strike in the coming budget battle when the legislative session starts in January.
Kansas has accepted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to shore up the budgets of public schools and universities.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act requires states that use those federal funds to keep education funding above 2006 levels.
States can seek a waiver to cut below the 2006 mark, but the LEPC voted to recommend that the funding to public schools and higher education not be cut below those levels, and that Gov. Mark Parkinson not seek a waiver of the federal rule.
But several committee members opposed the recommendation, saying if enacted it would reduce the Legislature’s ability to confront the current budget crisis. Parkinson has said he will cut the budget next week to solve an immediate $260 million revenue shortfall. Public school and higher education funding make up two-thirds of state spending.
“It just seems to put us in a box,” state Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, said of the proposal.
But proponents of the recommendation said education has already been cut too much and public school funding is a constitutionally mandated responsibility.
State Rep. Eber Phelps, D-Hays, said he hoped the recommendation would spur lawmakers to look for ways to increase revenues.
State Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said several rounds of budget cuts to schools have already hurt.
“Knowing the cuts are causing hardships now, I wouldn’t want to impose more hardships,” she said.
The LEPC adopted the recommendation, which was made by state Sen. John Vratil, R-Leawood, on a voice vote. The only ones voicing opposition to the recommendation were Donohoe, and state Reps. Denna Horst, R-Salina, and Steve Huebert, R-Valley Center.
State elected officials have reduced higher education funding this year by 12 percent, or $100 million. For public schools, base state aid has gone down from $4,433 per pupil to effectively $4,068 per pupil.
Because of previous budget cuts this year, higher education funding is less than 1 percent higher than the 2006 level, and public school funding is a little above 1 percent the 2006 level.