With 11,684 students, Lawrence public schools recorded an enrollment growth of 62 students from last year, according to figures collected recently.
The Sept. 20 enrollment numbers that the Lawrence school district and other Kansas public schools report to the state will be used to determine the amount of per-pupil state aid districts receive in 2018-2019.
The district had 10,555 students enrolled in its 19 schools on the official date and another 1,129 virtual school students.
The district’s official enrollment for last school year was 11,622 students.
State school districts have traditionally been funded by per-pupil funding. That was not the case the past two years when districts were funded through a block grant system, which capped funding to districts at their 2014-2015 funding levels.
In March, the Kansas Supreme Court found the block-grant system unconstitutional because it didn’t adequately fund K-12 education. In response, the Kansas Legislature passed a new funding formula in June, which provides districts $4,006 in base per-pupil state aid. The state adds additional per-pupil dollars to help with the additional costs of educating students with learning disabilities, living in poverty or from non-English speaking households.
The old state funding formula that the Legislature ended in favor of the block grants also tied state per-pupil state aid to enrollment. However, that old formula determined state aid to districts for the current school year based on their Sept. 20 enrollment, which was more than a month after school boards approved their annual budgets. Kathy Johnson, Lawrence school district financial director, said now the Sept. 20 enrollment will determine the amount of state aid school districts receive in the next school year.
“Enrollment numbers from this Sept. 20, 2017, student count will not impact the 2017-2018 budget,” she said. “Once audited, they (student counts) will be what is used for building the 2018-2019 budget.”
Although this year's growth won't add dollars this school year, the Lawrence school district will be able to cash in on a significant enrollment increase of 249 students that it recorded in 2015-2016, interim Superintendent Anna Stubblefield said. The district didn’t receive added state aid for that growth under the block grant system.
The Baldwin City school district’s Sept. 20 student count of 1,424 students was a decrease of seven students from last year, said Baldwin City Superintendent Paul Dorathy. The dip was not alarming because the district’s enrollment has been steady for a number of years with slight upward or downward year-to-year changes, he said.
The one-year delay in applying enrollment numbers to state aid does take some of the guess work out of budgeting, but it could hinder the ability of districts to respond to rapid growth, Dorathy said.
The Eudora district is dealing with that challenge because it grows by about 15 to 20 students each year, Eudora Superintendent Steve Splichal said. Its Sept. 20 student count was 1,757. According to the Kansas Department of Education website, that is an enrollment increase of 14 students from last year.
The increase can be managed because the growth is spread out from kindergarten through 12th grade, but it could be enough to cause the need for another teacher at some class levels, Splichal said.
To manage such situations, the Eudora school board has been methodical about monitoring grade-level sizes and staffing needs, Splichal said.