Topeka Not only would Gov. Sam Brownback's proposed budget cut school funding, it could result in a federal penalty of $70 million in special education funding, officials said Monday.
The disclosure came as legislators started analyzing the details of Brownback's proposed budget cuts for the current fiscal year that are contained in House Bill 2014 before the House Appropriations Committee.
Brownback's budget recommendation would cut school funding in the current school year by $132 million, which would reduce base state aid per student from $4,012 to $3,937, or $75 per pupil.
It would also cut special education funding by $16.7 million.
Such a cut would put state funding below what is needed to get its full share of federal dollars. The result could mean a loss of $70 million in federal funds, officials said.
"By not spending $16.7 million this year, we could be in the hole $70 million over the next two years," said Mike Mathes, who is president-elect of the Kansas School Superintendents Association and superintendent of the Seaman school district in Shawnee County.
Mathes said that reduction in federal funds would mean that school districts would have to use their general fund dollars to make up for the shortfall in special education.
Asked if a looming federal penalty was a concern, Brownback's policy director Landon Fulmer said it was but that the governor had to make tough decisions to balance the budget.
Fulmer said if the $16.7 million is restored in the current fiscal year budget, then "you end up in the red" in the next fiscal year.
"We are trying to make do with the best decisions that we can going forward," he said.
Conservative Republicans on the Appropriations Committee asked Mathes if schools could use reserve funds to cover any federal penalty.
Mathes said some of those funds could be used but that most reserve funds are legally dedicated to specific purposes, such as paying off bonds, or held back for emergencies, such as building repairs, or to make payroll when the state delays payments to schools.
The committee is expected to work on the bill Tuesday.