Topeka Public schools will receive no increase in base state aid in the next school year and a small increase in the one after that under a plan unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Sam Brownback.
The proposal ignores a court order to increase school funding by significantly more, and the package could be upended if legislators reject other Brownback proposals, such as keeping the state sales tax at 6.3 percent instead of allowing it to drop to 5.7 percent as required by current law, or abolishing the mortgage interest tax deduction.
"Compared with where we would like to be, it's a disappointment, but I think there's also recognition it could be worse; it could still get worse, depending on how the Legislature responds," said Mark Tallman, a lobbyist with the Kansas Association of School Boards.
Tallman said he was pleased Brownback didn't cut school funding in light of revenue projections that show because of the tax cuts signed into law by the governor, the state will take in approximately $5.5 billion in the fiscal year that starts July 1, while current spending levels are at $6.2 billion. Public school funding makes up about half of the state budget.
With a crunch on tax dollars, Brownback's budget dips into other pots to funnel money to schools.
For example, nearly $100 million would be transferred from the Kansas Department of Transportation and used to pay for transportation costs of school districts.
Brownback's budget director, Steve Anderson, assured legislators that the transfer of KDOT funds would have no impact on building planned highway projects.
And Brownback proposes using $77 million in revenues from state-owned casinos to help fund teachers' pensions.
He has proposed keeping base state aid per pupil at $3,838 for the fiscal year that starts July 1 and then increasing it by $14, to $3,852, during the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2014.
Both figures are far short of the $4,492 in base state aid per pupil that was ordered last week by a three-judge panel. The panel ruled the Legislature had failed its constitutional duty to adequately fund public schools. The ordered increase would total approximately $440 million.
"Obviously, we feel that the current base is inadequate to do what we've been asked to do," Tallman said.
At a forum last week, Lawrence school Superintendent Rick Doll said increases in base state aid would "be the most important thing" the Legislature could do for schools.