FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 6.1.15
Slashing Income Taxes and Slashing Education Funding
The Truth about Funding for the Kansas City, Kansas School District
(NEWTON, Kansas.) The clash between Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools and the current administration illustrates in part the ongoing struggle between educators and the anti-public education dominated legislature about the slashing of income taxes and the resulting slashing of education funding.
Since Friday the following scenario has played out. The impact of the recently enacted block grants for education hit Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools very hard, according to the district’s superintendent, Cynthia Lane. The district announced major cuts to staff and programs. The Governor’s communications staff immediately denied there were cuts to the district’s funding and insisted the district received more new funding. Sunday the school district responded with a detailed explanation of its funding and provided corrections to the administration’s numbers.
Currently the legislature, working overtime, has been unable to find money to fund education and state needs while remaining unwilling to raise taxes. The current fix is estimated at $800 million dollars.
To put all of this in perspective, the 2012-2013 business income tax cuts promised new jobs and a better economy. The economic boom never came. Instead, Kansas’ economy lagged, its credit rating was downgraded, and job growth slowed. By 2014, projected revenues had fallen by nearly $4 billion over the next six years. In the first four months of 2015, Kansas lost jobs and some school districts started laying off staff, shortening sessions and one district already announced it will be closing.
Forty-eight school districts are now engaged in litigation against the state asking for fair and adequate school funding. Schools For Fair Funding, which represents more than one-third of Kansas public school children, including students in the Kansas City, KS Public Schools filed the lawsuit – Gannon vs. State of Kansas – in 2010 following state budget reductions that began in 2009. The suit sought to restore the cuts that have been made to all schools after the legislature failed to abide by an earlier settlement. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled the State must provide funding to equalize school budgets between wealthy and poor school districts. After announcing more definite constitutional standards, the court also ordered a lower court to reconsider whether Kansas children are actually receiving an adequate public education in Kansas as required by the Constitution. This decision is expected soon.
For more information contact: John Robb or Alan Rupe
Schools for Fair Funding
The text of the KCKPS release follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact:David Smith, Chief of Staff, (913) 279-2242
On Sunday, the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools issued the following statement, in response to a press release issued by Governor Sam Brownback’s office on May 30, 2015:
It is disappointing that a spokesperson for Governor Sam Brownback, Deputy Communications Director Melika Willoughby, would issue a press release that contains erroneous and irrelevant information, in an attempt to mislead the public concerning the reality of public school funding in Kansas City, Kansas. While the release talks about “…how money gets to our schools…” it presents funding amounts that are completely unrelated to money that could actually be used to fund activities in schools in Kansas City. The obvious implication is that the two are connected, and they are not.
First, the release makes an error in logic, in describing the 2014/15 school year as “the first year of the block grant.” Funding for the 2014/15 school year was finalized in May, 2014. The Block Grant legislation was signed by Governor Brownback in March, 2015, a full 10 months after funding decisions for 2014/15 were made. By describing 2014/15 as the first year of the Block Grants, Ms. Willoughby is attempting to give the Block Grants credit for decisions that were made 10 months before the Block Grants became law. This amounts to $12.9 million that Ms. Willoughby is erroneously giving the block grants credit for.
Next, the release conflates state funding to districts with money available to the district to educate children, as if those two are the same thing. They are not. In May, 2014, the Kansas legislature put additional money (see the paragraph above) into the school finance formula, in response to the Gannon v. State of Kansas school funding lawsuit, in which the court found that the state was not providing equitable funding for public schools in Kansas. The state was required to reinstate funding to poor school districts that it was legally obligated to provide, but had not been providing for several years. (To make up for the state’s lack of funding, local districts were forced to levy additional taxes on their taxpayers. All of the additional funding from the state that came to KCK was returned to the taxpayers, as was required by state law. Thus, there was no additional money available for schools because of those increases.)
Next, the release implies that an additional $3.75 million per year (or $7.5 million over the life of the Block Grants) that the state is spending on the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) is money that the district can spend on schools. In fact, this is not money that is available to the district to spend. It is temporarily (a matter of minutes) routed through district accounts, so that the state can claim that it is state funding to the district, but it is not available for the district to spend, so it can hardly be considered an increase. (It is also important to understand that the money is being added now because the state had not been meeting its obligation to fund the pension system for public employees in previous years. Ms. Willoughby is attempting to give the state credit for meeting an obligation it has had on the books for years, and which it has unfairly forced local taxpayers to carry.)
Those two errors in the release from the Governor’s office add up to $20.4 million, and when you add to this the .4% reduction to current funding that the Blocks grants take from districts to fund an “Extraordinary Needs” fund, the $2 million loss that is referred to in the release is accurate and correct.
What is not mentioned in the release is that the Block Grants do not provide any additional funding for increases in costs, such as insurance, utilities, etc., or even more significantly, for increases in student population. KCKPS has average an increase of 500 students each year for the past five years. KCKPS will not receive any additional funds to serve those students, which would be an additional loss of over $4 million over the life of the Block Grants.
Dale Dennis, Deputy Superintendent of the Kansas Department of Education, told the three-judge panel in the Shawnee District Court on May 8, 2015, under oath, that “…no district in Kansas is receiving an increase in funding because of the block grants.” That is the truth about education funding in Kansas.