Archive for Monday, November 30, 2009

As school funding takes another budget hit, KNEA calls for more responsible tax policy

Students in a 9th grade biology class at Southwest Junior High School participate in a virtual classroom. Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said statewide budget cuts could lead to layoffs or reductions in services.

Students in a 9th grade biology class at Southwest Junior High School participate in a virtual classroom. Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said statewide budget cuts could lead to layoffs or reductions in services.

November 30, 2009


— The upcoming fight over whether to cut more from the state budget or raise taxes to make up for lost revenue will inevitably focus on public school funding.

State spending on schools makes up half of the state budget. The Kansas Constitution requires adequate and equitable funding. A bruising legal and political battle several years ago forced lawmakers to pump more dollars into classrooms and overhaul the way funds were spent.

Now with tax revenues falling, Gov. Mark Parkinson and the Legislature have decreased school funding repeatedly during a time when enrollment, the number of at-risk students and the demand for higher academic achievement are all increasing.

Enough, says the Kansas National Education Association.

The union is calling on the Legislature to stop cutting the budget and roll back tax breaks.

“Part of the reason we’re in this financial crisis is the irresponsible tax policy of state lawmakers who gave away billions in tax breaks and incentives,” said KNEA President Blake West.

“We cannot continue to cut our way out of this financial crisis. We’re in a hole. Stop digging,” he said.

On Tuesday, Parkinson announced $259 million in cuts and transfers to balance the current fiscal year budget.

Schools were hit hard. Parkinson cut funding $36 million and refused to address the $156 million that budget experts said was needed to handle increased costs and enrollment this year.

The actions have lowered general state aid to schools to 2006 levels, which officials have repeatedly said represents the floor. That is because going any lower could jeopardize federal funding to schools under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, unless the state seeks a federal waiver.

One group of lawmakers — the Legislative Education Planning Committee — has adopted a recommendation that the state refrain from seeking such a waiver.

But when Parkinson was asked whether the latest cut to schools would be the last one he would approve, the governor said he couldn’t make that commitment.

But now the 2006 level is in question.

In a discussion before the House Appropriations Committee, Chairman Kevin Yoder, R-Overland Park, noted that total spending on schools remains nearly $300 million more than in 2006.

“It’s helpful to talk about all the dollars,” Yoder said.

Parkinson’s budget director, Duane Goossen, said it’s more complicated than that.

General state aid to schools is back to the 2006 level, he said. Meanwhile, what is called supplemental aid, special education funding and funding for the public school portion of the state retirement system are all up. But cutting back in any of those areas is problematic, he said.

Cutting any more from special education funding will jeopardize all federal assistance in this area, Goossen said.

Cutting from supplemental aid, which is designed to help the poorest districts, affects balance of aid. “It affects the school districts that can least afford it,” he said.

And cutting back on contributions to the retirement system would further hurt a pension system that already is reeling from losses during the recession, Goossen said.


Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

Salaries for private citizens (other than those on Wallstreet) are shrinking. I read that people who have lost their jobs and find new work are facing an average of 40% reduction in income.

Teachers, be thankful you have jobs. And accept salary reduction as part of the "shared sacrifice" that Obama lauds. Otherwise, face layoffs.

labmonkey 8 years, 6 months ago

No New Taxes!!!

1) I second Godot. Teachers need to be thankful they have a job. And with powerful union protection from the KNEA, it is very unlikely they themselves will see much of a cut.

2) Deport illegal immigrants. Whether directly, or by fining the hell out of employers caught with them (E-Verify!!!). They are a huge strain on a system to which they provide little support.

3) Get rid of some of the top-heavy administration. If smaller districts (1-4A) were required to get rid of one, and larger districts (5-6A) two, $25-30 million per year could be saved.

4) No more money for stadiums and stadium upgrades until money is dispersed for academics. The Lawrence schools have NO right to complain about money shortfalls when their football teams play in new stadiums. I don't want to hear this crap about how it comes out of a different tough times, the people have to rearrange finances, so should the government and school districts.

5) Audit every school district to remove waste.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 6 months ago

The headline claims the KNEA wants a "more responsible tax policy."

By far, the more accurate headline would have read, "Union bosses demand higher taxes."

FastEddie 8 years, 6 months ago

Teachers are very thankful that they still have jobs in these tough times. Most will still have their job even as things get harder. Kids of today are our future and that is what you should really be worried about. Short changing them now not only short changes their future but ours as well.

SettingTheRecordStraight 8 years, 6 months ago

I was thinking about our destitute public school kids the other day when I drove by the massive Free State High School compound. A tear slowly rolled down my cheek as I imagined our students without their astroturf or 40,000 pounds of cypress mulch surrounding the cut stone, walking paths and newly-planted trees.

kusp8 8 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, let's audit ever district in the state, that should get results in oh...a couple of years.

Also, yes, let's rearrange funds so that next time there isn't enough money for the building to run school administrators can just take it out of the part of the budget setup for teachers salaries. Oh, shucks, sorry we couldn't pay you this month, we had to keep the lights on longer this month than we thought and had to find money somewhere to pay it.

Talk to a teacher and see how much they like the larger classrooms and fewer support resources and then get back to me. Until then don't act like you know anything about education.

youngjayhawk 8 years, 6 months ago

Photo caption: Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said statewide budget cuts could lead to layoffs or reductions in services.

FYI ... Weseman is not the current supt.

kugrad 8 years, 6 months ago

If you clueless losers ever actually paid any attention to the facts of school finance, you would know that, within the last decade, the legislature conducted no less than 3 studies of the actual cost of educating a pupil in Kansas. The results clearly show that we are not spending what it takes to get the job done. You won't find your solution in auditing because the waste you wish you'd find just isn't there. Irresponsible tax policy dug this hole, not KNEA.

temperance 8 years, 6 months ago

It's great that all of these sanctimonious idiots are lecturing teachers on what they should and shouldn't be thankful for. I'm sure the teachers appreciate it.

wastewatcher 8 years, 6 months ago

Mr. West blames irresponsible tax policy, he needs to see who he is talking about. I bet they are all of the legislators that the KNEA endorsed, led by their favorite - SEBELIUS, Isn't it interesting how the chickens come home to roost. Mr. West should look into the KNEA mirror and hold those who he wants to blame now accountable in future elections.

labmonkey 8 years, 6 months ago


They are demanding our money, so we can lecture them if we damn well please. Everyone else has to deal with cuts and/or no raises, what makes teachers so special?

Godot 8 years, 6 months ago

Temperance derides the people she knows are being forced, by threat of punishment, to pay her salary. That constitutes abuse, doesn't it? If it doesn't, it does, at the minimum, denote contempt.

tleamav 8 years, 6 months ago

Teaching 25 children in a classroom, many who have behavioral issues, learning problems, and physical problems. Case in point, this year we have several "poopers" this year. Students who do not make it to the bathroom, don't tell the teacher, and leave deposits on the floor. Open bathroom door policy for the bathroom for these children, parents informed, doctors suggested, yet as of today no relief in sight. Pretty stinky in some rooms. George Bush's "NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND" says 80% of students this year must be at or above grade level this year. By 2014 it is 100%. So let's make the class sizes bigger, cut materials, cut teachers, and hope for the best. If anything is to help our country it is quality education. Why is it okay to "bail out" the wall street crooks but to fund education where we teach honesty and responsibility AND how to read and write is okay? Kansas keeps cutting taxes to the richest hoping for saving and getting only more requests with little return. I say fund education. It is our future to more jobs. We work with every child, no matter the problem, and encourage success. Bathroom or classroom, we turn no one away.

situveux1 8 years, 6 months ago

If being a teacher is so awful, then get a different job. I hated my last job. I thought I should be paid a lot more than what I got, but I stayed there several years because I wasn't able to find anything else in the area. I didn't like it, but I was getting what the market called for. Eventually I did leave town & found a job making twice my previous salary. Maybe that's what teachers in Kansas should do. If there was a shortage of teachers, the state would be forced to pay more. If teachers don't like their jobs, maybe it's time to start looking elsewhere. That's what the rest of us have to do.

Lori Nation 8 years, 6 months ago

And exactly how much is the school district losing by all the tax breaks that were given to the Mt. Oread Inn, and other business'?

cowboy 8 years, 5 months ago

I'm hearing Woodlawn , Pinckney , New York , and Waka are on the possible close list , shameful

Commenting has been disabled for this item.