Kansas public schools hit hard by funding challenges since recession, new report shows

A new report shows K-12 education in Kansas has sustained the eighth largest cut in the nation, further highlighting how well Kansas public schools are doing in overcoming funding challenges and further emphasizing the importance for the public to be engaged in the upcoming debate about the next school finance formula.

When adjusted for inflation, Kansas school funding was cut 14.2 percent between 2008 and 2014, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. That is the eighth largest cut in the nation, the report said.

Meanwhile, KASB, which measures states on a wide array of student achievement, issued its annual State Education Report Card in September that showed Kansas ranks 10th in student outcomes.

All states that rank ahead of Kansas on student outcomes spend more per pupil. The CBPP report showed only 14 states have seen a funding increase above inflation and of those, nine are the ones that rank ahead of Kansas.

“To be among the top tier states in student achievement while being among those hardest hit in budgets is a testament to the dedication of our great school leaders, teachers and those working hard every day to help Kansas children succeed,” said Mark Tallman, KASB’s Associate Director for Advocacy. Tallman’s analysis of the CBPP report can be found here.

The CBPP inflation-adjusted report showed that 23 states will provide less state support for K-12 in the current school year than when the Great Recession took hold in 2008. Eight states, including Kansas, have cut general funding by 10 percent or more. Five of those eight states have also cut income tax rates. That includes Kansas.

Education cuts have dire consequences, the CBPP report says. “Local school districts typically struggle to make up for major state funding cuts on their own, so the cuts have led to job losses, deepening the recession and slowing the economy’s recovery. They also impede important state education reform initiatives at a time when producing workers with high-level technical and analytical skills is increasingly important to the country’s prosperity.” CBPP is a Washington, D.C.-based research institute that conducts analyses on government policies and programs. It is often described as leaning left of center.

The level of state funding of Kansas schools has essentially been frozen for the past three years. In addition to the CBPP report, KASB studies confirm that since the recession, state school funding has failed to keep up with inflation and other costs.

When the 2017 Legislature convenes, legislators will be tasked with putting together a new school finance formula to replace the current block grant system.

Gov. Sam Brownback has invited the public to provide input in this process by submitting recommendations to StudentsFirst@ks.gov by Nov. 30. KASB has designated Oct. 31- Nov. 4 as Put Students First week and is urging communities to hold meetings on school finance to come up with recommendations to provide to the governor and then to remain engaged by electing pro-public education candidates in the Nov. 8 general election and then advocating for schools during the legislative session that starts in January.

“It is imperative for the future of our state that our elected leaders get both the school finance formula and amount of funding right so that we can accomplish our state vision for education, which is helping every Kansas child succeed,” Tallman said.

October 21, 2016