Category Archives: Our Schools

Block Grant Funding System Hurts Eudora

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.


Additional resources:

  • 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.

We Have Everything to Lose

There are few times worse than when you learn that the district you lead — the one you care most about — may likely lose the funding it needs to provide a great education to the students you serve. That time is now.

While we work to finish up the current fiscal year (including finding ways to absorb the $81,000 cut from Governor Brownback), we also are looking ahead to the 2015-2016 budget year, which will begin July 1. And while the legislature hasn’t yet introduced any bills addressing school funding for next year, there’s one thing we know for sure:

Kansas isn’t taking in enough tax dollars to make ends meet.

Kansas Center for Economic Growth graphicKansas doesn’t have enough money to pay for public schools, roads, and a host of other essential services that have defined our state for generations. The tax cuts passed in 2012, which slashed personal income tax for the wealthiest Kansans and small business owners, have caused this crisis. Unsurprisingly, these reckless tax cuts have resulted in dangerously low revenues for our state.

We won’t know for certain what we’re facing in Eudora until April or May, but most estimates right now point to a budget cut here of $500,000, likely more. Let me be clear: Cuts this size will fundamentally change our schools as we know them right now. There is no more “fat” to cut in our budget — only bone. This is going to hurt everyone.

Often, I hear suggestions from people in our district and community about possible ways that we could offset massive budget cuts. But when you think about a $500,000 budget hole, please keep these facts in mind…

  • Small class size has been a priority of our board for many, many years and was specifically named as one of four district core values in 2009. We typically budget roughly $50,000 per teaching position, to include salary and benefits. It would take eliminating 10 teaching positions to even come close to offsetting state budget cuts of this magnitude — and this would have an immediate and noticeable impact on class size.
  • Sports and activities, along with academic programs, create a well-rounded education for Eudora students. Many of these events also generate revenue through gate tickets and concessions. Plus, eliminating all sports programs in our district wouldn’t even add up to $100,000.
  • For years, Eudora had no student fees. Since implementing fees to offset state budget cuts in 2010, our board has worked hard to keep them as low as possible because board members understand the challenges of family budgets. Across the district, student fees raise approximately $48,000 each year, with another $33,000 in kindergarten fees.
  • The free shuttle system for all students helps us overcome a lack of community-wide safe routes to school, including K-10 running through the middle of town. The free shuttle system transports students to and from schools safely and costs district taxpayers approximately $90,000 a year.

These facts make it clear: There just aren’t any easy answers. (*Please see note below.) If you care about a quality education in Eudora, please take time TODAY and contact the people elected to represent you in Topeka. Here are links to the officials who represent voters in our district:

If you live in another Kansas district, go to http://openkansas.org/ to find your elected officials and their contact information.

Send a letter or an e-mail — or best yet, make a phone call. Tell them why Eudora Schools matters to you. And tell them that full funding of the finance formula is the only way to protect our kids, our district, our community — and our future.

Finally, please watch and share this video. Help others know that we truly do have everything to lose, if we don’t act now!

 

*NOTE: I want to be crystal clear here that the bullet list of budget facts above, and the items depicted in the video, are not proposals that the board is currently considering. When we know what the cuts at the state level will be, our board will communicate a range of cut options to the families and patrons of our district. Depending on the level of funding cuts from the state, every area of our district’s operations could absolutely be at risk.


Want to know more about the numbers? Here are a few additional resources to consult.

  • Here’s our district budget. Remember, these documents were adopted by the Eudora Board of Education in August 2014, so they don’t reflect the $81,000 cut that Governor Brownback announced for the current budget year. This cut — $42 in base state aid per pupil – leaves the district with fewer dollars than last year that can be spent on classroom and student programs.
  • An easy-to-understand blog from Duane Goossen, showing how the 2012 tax cuts have affected state job growth and crippled the state budget. Mr. Goossen was a seven-term member of the Kansas House of Representatives and a budget director for 12 years under three governors (both Republican and Democratic). He now works for the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, a trustworthy, non-partisan resource for understanding how the state’s budget affect school districts, communities and everyday Kansans.
  • Another helpful Duane Goossen blog shows what state revenue means to the overall state budget and shares signs to watch for when revenue estimates are announced each month.
  • Contact me! I’ve already heard from a number of caring and concerned parents and patrons, and I thank everyone who’s taken the time to write or call me. I would be happy to talk or sit down with anyone who wants to understand more about how school funding and the state funding formula affects the district budget. E-mail me any time — stevesplichal@eudoraschools.org — or call my office at 785-542-4910.

 

Board tour reflections

It was a great day for Eudora Schools — a day that connected our school board members directly to the teaching, learning and facilities in our schools. 



This was the first time (in anyone’s memory, at least) that members of the Eudora Board of Education spent the day touring our schools and buildings and learning about the opportunities and challenges in each. The time we spent was to ensure that our board members have background information as they make decisions about our facility and maintenance needs from month to month and year to year. After all, it can be difficult for board members, who usually meet in the evening, to visualize the way our facilities function and feel. 



It was a long day, but three things really stick in my mind, as I think back:

  1. We have gifted leadership on our board! Eudora is incredibly fortunate to have such dedicated leaders who are genuinely interested in doing what’s best for Eudora students. 
  2. Our employees and students are amazing! We had a great breakfast in the EES cafeteria and lunch in the EMS cafeteria. We saw the outstanding job our custodians, maintenance and grounds crews do. We popped through several classrooms to see inspired teaching and learning. And we witnessed some of the most respectful, well-behaved kids you can imagine. 
  3. Our community has made continuous investments in public education. You don’t just end up with facilities like we have here — this happens because local taxpayers invest in public schools. In Eudora, you’ve invested time and money, and you work hard every day over the long term to take care of your investments. 



I, for one, do not take any of these things for granted. It’s great to be in Eudora, and it’s my goal to work with our board, our employees and our community to support and grow the awesome things that we have going for us.

It was a great day! 



Message from the Superintendent

Dear friend of Eudora Schools:

As you may have heard, this afternoon Governor Sam Brownback announced 1.5% in school district “allotments” – cuts that don’t require legislative approval – effective March 7. In Eudora, this translates to an $81,000 cut to our current budget. This is not good news.

It will take me some time to formulate a plan to address this cut, but I will be working with building and district leaders to find the solutions that – though painful – are the most appropriate. In the meantime, I have asked each of the outstanding professionals who make up our district to do what they can to reduce use of resources and delay any and all purchases until further notice.

I must also note that the legislature is currently working two bills. Senate Bill 71 would cut approximately $75,000 from the current fiscal year from our local option budget. Senate Bill 4 would delay a portion of capital outlay payments from this current budget year until June. Please understand, the measures being discussed in Topeka are only temporary fixes to the current budget year. Given revenue forecasts, there is every reason to expect the pain of cuts to schools will continue for some time.

This news is upsetting in many, many ways. Sadly, it is news that many have seen coming for quite some time. Until the governor and state lawmakers choose to restore revenue streams – most notably, the tax plan passed in 2012 that has brought us to this point – Eudora Schools and districts all across our state will suffer.

If you’d like to see the budget documents for our district, including our cash balances, go to: http://bit.ly/1zTf85k for documents you can download. Please also feel free to contact me if you’d like any additional details.

Thank you for your patience during this time. Our district’s greatest strength is the loyal support we receive from our community. I urge you to contact your legislators as soon as possible and tell them that these cuts are hurting Eudora kids and Eudora families.

Sincerely,

Steve Splichal
Superintendent of Schools

stevesplichal@eudoraschools.org
785-542-4910

New Year’s: Looking back, looking ahead

Looking back over 2014, it’s a little crazy to think about everything that’s changed for me and my family. It was almost a year ago that my wife and I came to Eudora on a cold, snowy January day for my interview. I had done my research, and I knew that Eudora was the place I wanted to be, both for my professional life, but also for my family life.

Fast-forward to July 1 — my first day in my office at West. For the next month, leading up to the start of school, I was on a fast track to listen and absorb as much as possible about this school system that was already operating so smoothly. I watched our staff plan for and pull off Cardinal Craze, and I was thoroughly impressed with their dedication to serving every single parent and family who walked through our doors over those two days.

The next few weeks brought with them new teacher induction, with my first chance to meet the teachers who’d been hired to join our team. What a group! And again, to watch how our administrative team and teacher leaders helped welcome and orient them to our district — I was impressed!

Convocation came, with my chance to welcome back all of our staff. I loved watching the food drive that the ENEA teachers’ association sponsors each year for the Eudora Food Pantry. I loved shaking hands with teachers, cooks, principals, bus drivers and others. I loved welcoming representatives of the Eudora Schools Foundation and the Eudora Chamber of Commerce.

Next, school started — and that’s what it’s all about. What happens in our schools is exactly why I came to Eudora. I’m humbled by the chance to help lead a system that encourages and empowers employees to serve students and families through caring, teaching and mentoring. And after one semester, I’m extremely proud of what I’ve  witnessed happening in our classrooms and schools. We are so fortunate in Eudora.

Heading into 2015, my first fill calendar year working and living in this community, I have three resolutions:

  1. Get out into our schools, as much as I possibly can. Whether it’s spending time in a kindergarten classroom, watching students immersed in a science project, or stopping by a band or choir practice now and then — this is what makes my day and reminds me of what matters.
  2. Collaborate with leaders who can help make good things happen in Eudora. There are outstanding partnerships already in place between our district and a number of government, non-profit and private agencies. And whether in resource sharing, grants or other support, these partnerships help Eudora Schools be stronger than we can be on our own.
  3. Fight for a bright future for Eudora Schools. Whether I’m supporting the work and innovation of our employees, working with our outstanding school board, or advocating in Topeka, the continued success of Eudora Schools is my priority.

As exciting as 2014 was, I can’t wait to see what great things await for Eudora Schools in 2015!