Topeka Total state funding for public schools has increased since Gov. Sam Brownback took office in 2011, administration officials say, although the increase is due mainly to new funding this year that was ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court.
Brownback's budget director, Shawn Sullivan, and spokeswoman Eileen Hawley pointed out those numbers in response to a July 29 story in the Journal-World that quoted an analysis by former budget director Duane Goossen.
That analysis said the increase in total state funding for public schools was entirely attributable to increased funding for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which provides pension benefits for school employees.
But Sullivan and Hawley pointed out that Goossen's analysis was written before the Kansas Legislature acted this spring to increase certain school funding that targets lower-wealth districts.
The new funding, which takes effect this year, was in response to a Kansas Supreme Court ruling in March that declared a portion of the school finance system unconstitutional and ordered the Legislature to increase funding for "equalization aid" that subsidizes the capital outlay and local option budgets of lower-wealth districts.
That funding — about $130 million — was included in a bill that also made significant education policy changes such as eliminating teacher tenure and adding tax credits for corporations that fund scholarships for private and parochial schools.
When that money, plus additional state money paid into the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System are included, administration officials say, total state funding for K-12 schools will be $3.18 billion in the current fiscal year, up from $2.97 billion in fiscal year 2011, the first full year of Brownback's administration.
That is still below the pre-recession peak of $3.23 billion that was budgeted for fiscal year 2009, but was later cut by Democratic Gov. Mark Parkinson when the financial industry collapsed and state revenues began to plummet.
Meanwhile, base state aid to public schools — money that funds each district's general fund budget — has been cut about $20 million since 2011, from $1.89 billion to $1.87 billion.
The July 29 story was prompted by a campaign mailer sent out by the Kansas Values Institute, a political action committee with ties to Democrats and moderate Republicans, which criticized Brownback for making, "the largest cuts to Kansas public schools in state history."
During Brownback's first two years in office, the base state formula was cut from $4,012 per pupil before he took office to $3,780 in fiscal year 2012. That was mainly due to the phase-out of federal stimulus aid, which Congress approved in 2009 to shore up state budgets during the Great Recession.
Base fund has gone back up slightly since 2012, and this year's budget funds base state aid at $3,852 per pupil.