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 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 — firstname.lastname@example.org — or call my office at 785-542-4910.