Topeka — While Gov. Sam Brownback and other Republicans praised the state budget, education officials say the $100 million in cuts to schools will jeopardize student performance.
“It is important for school leaders, parents, patrons and state officials to understand the impact of the downward spiral in education funding,” John Heim, executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards, said recently.
“There is no way to avoid the fact this budget will damage the programs that have helped more students reach higher levels of achievement and create the need for significant reductions in staff.”
Under the budget proposal approved by the Legislature this month and on Brownback’s desk, base state aid will be cut $232 per student, to a 10-year low of $3,780 per student. That is 5.8 percent lower than last year and 14 percent below 2008-09 when cutting started as the recession unfolded.
General funding per pupil, which includes additional funds for special education, bi-lingual, vocational programs and transportation, will be $6,474 per pupil, which is 11 percent less than four years ago.
Heim said school boards across the state will be forced to cut more personnel, close schools, raise fees and use emergency reserves. Since the 2008-09 school year, districts have cut 2,295 positions, about 3 percent of the total.
In addition, the budget will cut Kan-ed, the program that provides Internet connectivity and technology support for schools, colleges, libraries and hospitals, from $10 million per year to $6 million per year.
Brownback, a Republican, is expected to sign the budget into law. The measure was passed earlier this month with only Republican support, and the base state aid per pupil level is what Brownback had proposed at the state of the legislative session.
Supporters of the budget plan said it was the best that could be done with the state facing a projected $500 million revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1.
“We got right to work on balancing the state budget and in conjunction with the Kansas Legislature, took the more than $500 million deficit and turned it into a $50 million ending balance that prioritizes the core functions of government,” Brownback said after the budget was approved.
The Lawrence school district is looking at cuts of $3 million in the coming school year, compared with $4.6 million this year, and $3 million in the previous year.
Planned cuts in Lawrence include closing Wakarusa Valley School, eliminating two teaching positions, and using contingency funds.