Kansas ranked 30th among the 50 states in total funding per K-12 student in 2017, providing more than $1,500 less than the national average, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
That gap steadily widened since 2009, when it was $311. Adjusted for inflation, Kansas per pupil funding remains below 2008. The reduction in real (inflation-adjusted) funding and the impact on student achievement is a key factor in the Gannon school finance case. In 2017, the Kansas Legislature began adding funding in response to that case. That additional funding, beginning in 2018, is not included in this U.S. census report for 2017. (Their annual reports are two years behind the current year.)
Kansas ranked 30th in both total revenue per pupil, which includes all funding sources (federal, state and local) and current expenditures per pupil, which excluding capital (building and equipment) costs and payments on debt, such as school construction bonds. (This ranking excludes the District of Columbia.)
Among other states in the Plains region (North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri) and the other border states of Colorado and Oklahoma, Kansas per pupil spending was in the middle; slightly below the regional average of $12,940. Based on multiple measures of educational performance, North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa have higher educational outcomes than Kansas, with Minnesota and Missouri slightly lower. Colorado, South Dakota and Oklahoma rank substantially lower. (See KASB Commitment to Success Report, page 13. Updated educational performance and funding rankings will be released this summer.)
The latest report continues to find that Kansas ranks high and provides more funding directly from the state, but that is offset by significantly lower local funding levels, which are primarily property taxes. Kansas ranks 29th of 50 states in federal funding per pupil; 15th in state revenue per pupil and 42nd in local revenue per pupil.
This is important because of concerns that K-12 funding represents approximately 50 percent of the state general fund budget. It has been a long-standing state policy to provide a larger share of school funding at the state level, in order to keep school property taxes lower. State funding includes not only “base” or foundation state aid, but equalization aid for local operation budgets, bond and interest payments and capital outlay, as well as special education state aid and Kansas Public Employee Retirement System contributions.
If state funding were reduced, Kansas per pupil funding would either be even lower compared to the U.S. average and regional neighbors, or local funding – mostly property taxes and student fees – would have to be higher make up the difference.
Note: these per pupil amounts reported for Kansas by the Census Bureau are different that the total expenditures amounts reported by the Kansas State Department of Education on its website. The primary difference is that KSDE uses an adjusted enrollment for school funding purposes that does not count all students. For example, in 2017, students in full day kindergarten programs were counted as 0.5 even if they attended school all day. The Census report used the headcount enrollment for each state. Because this is a larger number, when divided into total funding, it produces a lower amount than the KSDE number. However, it provides a consistent method for all states.