Topeka School officials Tuesday loaded up for the next round of spending fights as the State Board of Education started budget talks.
Board Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, and a school teacher, indicated he would push for an increase to make up for several years of school cuts.
“I got a great education,” as a child, Dennis said, and it was because “people sacrificed.”
But Walt Chappell, also of Wichita, and who just recently switched back to the Republican Party, said he wanted a plan that the Legislature, which sets appropriations, wouldn’t ignore.
The past two budget proposals from the board, he said, have been “dead on arrival.” He added, “I wonder if there is a more realistic way to put this budget together.”
The 10-member board will make a budget recommendation at its next monthly meeting in July, which will then be submitted to Gov. Sam Brownback’s office. In January, Brownback will propose to the Legislature a budget that will include a proposal for the 2012-13 school year.
School funding makes up about half the state budget, and amid historic revenue shortfalls, classrooms have been cut.
During the recently completed legislative session, the Legislature approved Brownback’s recommendation to decrease base state aid from $4,012 per student to $3,780 per student.
Just to bring that figure back up to $4,012 per student would require $154.5 million — about the same amount of revenue a one-half cent state sales tax increase would generate. To increase base state aid to the 2008-09 level of $4,400 per student would cost $412.9 million.
In addition, the state zeroed out funding for programs for teachers such as professional development and mentoring.
Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis told the board it has a difficult task in setting budget priorities. “These are tough decisions,” he said.
Board member David Dennis conceded state leaders are in no mood to consider a tax increase, but he said in his discussions with students’ parents, they have indicated they are willing to pay more.
He said it is the board’s responsibility to advocate for students and school districts.