Some Kansas School District Gain Others Lose in Legislatures Equity Funding
The Kansas legislature’s temporary fix of education funding has some fallout for local districts. The change holds good and bad news for some area school superintendents.
At Southeast schools, students work on dissecting a goat’s eye. The district has lost one hundred students since 2013 and the enrollment decline is costing the district in dollars under the more equitable funding plan passed in the legislature’s special session.
Superintendent Brad Miner said, “Sometimes when you try to get equity though some schools gain and some schools lose. We’re going to probably lose about one hundred sixty-eight thousand dollars.”
Pittsburg school district which has a growing enrollment gets three hundred thousand dollars.
Superintendent Destry Brown explained, “We can’t raise our budget and have three hundred thousand dollars more to spend. That means we just don’t collect three hundred thousand dollars next year when we do the taxes. It should result in some drop in our mill levy.”
Galena one of the state’s poorest districts will get just eighteen thousand dollars to reduce the local option budget. because a local hospital’s property valuation doubled. While that valuation is being appealed, Galena’s superintendent was still pleased that lawmakers prevented a school shutdown and worked toward a more equitable system.
Brown explained the current allocations are a hybrid of the old formula and the block grant system created last year. He said the allotments were, “Based on our enrollment and the poverty in the district versus our assessed valuation.”
Southeast now faces cutting costs, which it already did last year or consider a mill levy increase. That fact makes it eligible to apply for money from a state extraordinary need fund.
Miner explained, “If you were to have to increase your mill levy by more than two and half mills was one part of the criteria. For us a mill raises about thirty thousand dollars so we would have to increase about five to five and half mills.”
But, according to Dale Dennis with the State Board of Education, there is no money in that extraordinary need fund until the state sells the Bio-Science Authority Building in Manhattan, Kansas. If it brings the asking price of thirty-eight million dollars, the fund gets thirteen million to disperse to districts such as Southeast. If it sells for twenty-five million or less, the fund gets nothing. Districts can begin applying to the fund July first. The deadline is July 15th.
The frustration for superintendents is that the current fix is only temporary and the money issue will come up again next year.
Brown said, “We will continue down the same road every year unless we come up with a long term solution. And right now, it’s just like, I feel like we’re just trying to get to June 30th every year….As a state we can’t continue to function that way.”
Lawmakers are expected to work on a new funding formula next year. But the Supreme Court is also expected to rule this fall on the issue of adequate funding of education by the state. Earlier courts’ rulings have said the state under funds education by more than three hundred million dollars.