Schools reinvesting in teachers with new funding

A major part of the new funding for public schools is going toward teacher salaries, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. 

During the last legislative session, lawmakers approved a new school finance formula and appropriated approximately $200 million more in state K-12 funding for the current school year and $100 million for the next one.  

But legislators will have to continue work on school finance after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled last week the new system doesn’t provide adequate funding and is unfair to poor districts. The Legislature must propose a remedy to the court by April 30. 

Kansas Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis recently told the Legislative Budget Committee that under the new school funding law, teachers across the state on average received 4.5 percent pay raises, which costs approximately $95 million. That is about half the amount it would take to restore average salaries to 2010 levels when adjusted for inflation. 

The raises follow years of austere budgets under the former block grant system, which essentially froze school funding, and earlier cuts to K-12. Kansas currently ranks 42nd in average teacher pay, according to the National Education Association.  

Until this year, teacher salaries in Kansas fell more than eight percent below inflation since 2010. Districts would have to spend $175 million to bring up average salaries to the 2010 adjusted-for-inflation level, KASB has reported. 

Unclassified salaries have increased an average 4 percent ($37.3 million) and licensed personnel other than teachers, 4.5 percent ($12.3 million), Dennis said. 

Dennis said his figures are based on estimates from information received during the state education department’s annual budget workshops held this summer and individual school district budget reviews. 

Recently, KASB asked school districts how they have targeted their new funds. In addition to reinvesting in teachers, most districts that responded have restored programs that had been cut during lean budget years, increased programs and personnel designed to help students who are at risk of failing and enhanced pre-school opportunities. KASB has been posting these findings on Facebook and Twitter. 

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