Late last week the Kansas Legislature proposed a new way to fund public schools. If approved, a “block grant” system would replace the school funding formula that’s been in place for 22 years.
Here are some important things to understand about the block grant system:
- Every district will receive a set amount of funds, and this funding will be frozen for at least the next two years. This means there would be no additional funds for increases in student enrollment or increased needs of students, such as growth in the number of at-risk students.
- State equalization aid on the Local Option Budget is reduced and folded into each district’s block grant. This is especially harmful to Eudora because we are a property-poor district that relies on equalization to provide a high-quality education to our students.
- Analysis of the plan shows that it cuts Kansas school aid $51M this year. There will be some who argue that Kansas schools are getting MORE money in this plan. However, any increases in Eudora are funds for KPERS, the employee retirement program. These funds cannot be spent in the classroom and should not be considered as such.
So, what does all this mean in Eudora? Under the plan, we are set to lose $180,895 in the general fund, LOB and capital outlay funds beginning July 1 for the next school year, but the overall impact of the block grant system will be far worse and creates a shortfall of more than $450,000 next year, even by conservative projections. A set amount of funding over the next two years (or more) fails to account for:
- Standard increases in operational expenses. Industry partners have already recommended that we budget 5% increase in utility costs and rate hikes, as well as a 8-10% increase in insurance premiums.
- All but certain increases we can expect in the costs of fuel, paper and other materials.
- Basic salary increases for our 250 employees cost the district approximately $150,000 per year.
- Increases in enrollment and/or student needs – increases that we see nearly every year in Eudora. If you consider the block grant funds as a big pie sliced by the number of students, each slice of pie gets smaller, the more students and/or student needs are added.
It’s not hard to see that the proposed block grant system will hurt Eudora Schools, and districts all across our state. Once again, this is an example of the legislature trying to solve a state revenue crisis on the backs of students, schools and local communities. Today and this week, please do what you can to spread the word about the effect that a block grant funding system would have on our schools.
Why block grants?
One stated purpose of the block grant plan is to allow the legislature time to write a completely new school finance formula. Let me also take this opportunity to point out that the existing school funding formula works – and has been exceptionally good for Eudora.
Some say that a new funding system is needed because the current formula is “too complicated.” Providing fair funding to nearly 300 diverse school districts is complex — rural, urban, suburban … rich, poor, middle class — but this formula does just that! And every single year, the funding it provides to districts adapts and changes, based on the real needs and actual enrollment of a district. We only receive funding for the students who are physically in our buildings. The formula works.
Some say that the formula needs to be rewritten because it is “broken,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Nationwide, Kansas public schools outperform most states. Only seven states have better academic results across multiple measures of achievement. None of those seven spend less per pupil, and all have a lower percentage of low-income, at-risk students than Kansas. The formula works.
Some say that the formula is bad because it’s been tied up in court for decades. But the reality is, the only lawsuits filed in the last 22 years have focused on failure of the legislature to adequately fund the formula. As many times as the formula has been discussed in a courtroom, it’s never been argued that the formula itself fails to meet the needs of students. The formula works.
The formula today — as it was written in 1993 — is built to fund all of these diverse districts fairly so that every child in Kansas has access to an outstanding public education, regardless of zip code.
Block grant funding does not.
As I’ve shared before, NOW IS THE TIME to speak up for our school district, our community, and our students. The stakes have never been higher. We have everything to lose.
- Contact me any time for more information about our budget or the way that decisions in Topeka affect our schools.
- Go to Open Kansas to find out who represents you — and how to contact them.
- Here is a terrific, simple article from the Mainstream Coalition of the current finance formula and why it works.