Building on the successful work of the past legislative session, additional school funding as required by the Kansas Supreme Court would improve the lives of Kansas students and help the Kansas economy. In addition, early resolution of the funding issues in the 2019 session would allow districts to better plan for the upcoming school year and put in place long-term plans to improve student outcomes.
Specifically, the funding would help attract and retain qualified educators, reduce the achievement gap, protect students from harm, prepare them for life after high school and support efficient school operations.
The 2018 Kansas Legislature adopted a plan to restore Kansas school district funding to constitutional levels by adding approximately $90 million per year over five years. The Kansas Supreme Court has approved that plan but said if the Legislature phases in the amount over five years, it must add an inflationary adjustment, so the value is maintained over those five years.
The State Board of Education has recommended a plan to add an inflation adjustment over the next four years, adding approximately $90 million per year. Here is how additional funding would be used.
Support effective school operations
School districts have already used increased state funding last year and in the current year to improve salaries to be more competitive, restore positions cut over the past decade and add targeted new positions, and enhance programs to support student success.
- Passing the inflation adjustment early in the session would allow a timely resolution of the Gannon case before the Kansas Supreme Court and remove continued litigation.
- Early resolution in the 2019 session would also allow school districts to more effectively plan for the upcoming school year, rather than waiting until the end of the session and beyond.
- A four-year funding commitment would provide districts stable funding to implement long-term plans for improving student success.
Attract and retain qualified, effective educators and support staff
From 2010 to 2017, Kansas teacher salaries fell behind other comparably educated workers, inflation, the national average, and six of the other eight states in the region. Districts are not only struggling to hire teachers but other licensed and classified support staff as well.
With increased funding last year, districts increased all salaries and benefits by approximately $175 million and provided the largest teacher salary increase in 10 years.
- State Department of Education officials believe funding already appropriated, combined with the inflation adjustment, would allow Kansas to raise average teacher salaries to the highest level of surrounding states, and at or near the average of all 50 states.
- Additional funding would also support school district “grow your own teacher” programs by covering college costs for students, paraprofessionals and other staff who want to earn education degrees leading to teacher licensure.
- More funding would also support professional development programs to improve teaching and staff effectiveness in areas such as dyslexia, safety intervention, suicide and bullying prevention.
Give all students the opportunity to succeed
Significant achievement gaps remain for low income, disabled, English Language Learners and other student groups in test scores, graduation rates and postsecondary participation. Many of these students struggle because of family or social circumstances that occur before the student ever reaches the school.
- Additional funding would allow continued expansion of preschool programs that help students enter school better prepared, with proven results for improved student success.
- Despite additional funding for special education state aid, the share of special education “excess cost” it covers is expected to continue to decline as costs of these services rise. More funding would allow the state to reach its goal of covering 92 percent of excess cost, providing improved services in areas such as dyslexia, autism and students with severe emotional issues.
Increase Support for Student Health and Safety
In the wake of growing concerns about student health and safety, from school shootings to suicide, the Legislature made several one-time investments in the last session that should be sustained and expanded.
- A $5 million school safety grant program covered less than half of the requests to improve the physical security of school buildings.
- A $10 million pilot program for school-based mental health services in collaboration with community mental health services funded programs in just nine districts (out of 286) and 79 school buildings (out of nearly 1,500).
- Additional funding would also allow districts to continue to increase the number of counselors and social workers available to support students.
Prepare students for postsecondary education and career success
The number of students enrolled in concurrent enrollment and dual credit courses with community and technical colleges, state universities and private colleges has grown significantly in recent years. These courses can lower costs and student borrowing and improve the chances students will successfully complete certificate and degree programs. However, the tuition is a barrier for many low-income students.
Last session, the Legislature approved a one-year appropriation to allow all high school juniors and seniors to take one ACT test and ACT Workkeys tests at no charge.
- Additional funding would allow the State Board of Education, Board of Regents and Legislature to move ahead with plans to allow students to take certain academic college courses in high school at no charge, and to fully fund the state’s commitment to postsecondary technical education programs offered to high school students.
- Funding could also provide incentives for high school teachers who will need to additional college courses to be qualified to teach concurrent enrollment courses.
These priorities support the State Board’s Kansans Can outcomes: addressing social and emotional needs, expanding early childhood education, individual student plans of student, improving graduation rates and improvement postsecondary success (educational attainment).
Higher educational attainment will provide Kansas employers the workforce they need, raise employment, increase state personal income and reduce poverty.