Legislature underfunded school finance laws by $867 million since 2009

Legislature underfunded school finance laws by $867 million since 2009

The Kansas Legislature has underfunded school finance
formulas in state law by $867 million since 2009, according to data prepared by
the Kansas Legislative Research Department.
This shortfall in funding is not related to school finance
cost studies. Rather, it is a comparison between what the Legislature has
adopted for school funding in state law by legislative enacted, and what has
actually been appropriated and provided to school districts.

Nearly 40 percent of the shortfall has been in special
education state aid, which is supposed to cover services to students with
disabilities required by state and federal law.
Although the Legislature can ignore state law and prorate
(reduce) funding below statutory levels, when it does so districts may have to
reduce services, shift funding from other areas, or raise local taxes to make
up for the shortfall.
Here the major programs that have been funded at less than
state law since 2009 include:
Special Education
State Aid
. Although state law says special education aid should cover 92
percent of the “excess costs” of special education programs, actual funding has
been below that level every year since 2011, for a total shortfall of $334
million.
Impact: schools
must shift funding from regular education programs to fund services to disabled
and gifted students as required by state and federal laws, and makes it more
difficult provide services requested by parents.
Local Option Budget
State Aid
. From 2009 to 2014, the Legislature froze LOB state aid, rather
than providing equalization to the 82.1 percentage of district wealth, reducing
funding by a total of $327 million. The Legislature did not restore full
funding until the Kansas Supreme Court ruled the shortfall violated the equity
principle of suitable funding by disadvantaging lower wealth districts.
Impact: lower-wealth
districts had to raise property taxes to compensation for less state aid.
Capital Outlay State
Aid
. From 2010 to 2014, the Legislature eliminated state aid for capital
outlay funding, which is limited to paying for building construction,
remodeling, equipment and other building costs. Districts lost a total of $110.3
million. Like LOB aid, the Legislature restored funding after the Kansas
Supreme Court ruled capital outlay funding is not constitutional without
equalizing funding between high and low wealth districts.
Impact: School
districts with low taxable property wealth either had less funding for school
facilities and equipment or had to shift more money from general operating
costs to make up the difference. That is the reason the Kansas Supreme Court
ruled that capital outlay must receive equalization aid.
 Professional
Development State Aid
. State law allows districts to receive state aid up
to one-half percent of their general fund or 50 percent of actual professional
development expenditures. Actual funding was far below that level in 2009 and
was eliminated every year from 2010 to 2017, for a total shortfall of almost $70
million.
Impact: when
funding is not provided, districts must reduce programs to help teachers and
other staff improve their performance and more effectively support learning.
These programs also support efforts combat bullying, identify students with
special needs and prevent suicide.
Mentor Teacher
Program Funding
. State law allows funding to provide stipends to assign an
experienced mentor teacher for the first three years of a new teacher’s career.
The program was not fully funded from 2009 to 2011, and funding was eliminated
from 2012 to 2017, for total underfunding of $18 million.
Impact: schools
provide less assistance to beginning teachers or shift funding from other
operating areas. Studies show most teachers who leave the profession do so in
the first few years, and mentoring helps increase teacher retention.
School Lunch. State
law provides that local school districts should be reimbursed six cents for
meal. However, since 2009, actual reimbursement has been 4.4 cents, a shortfall
of over $7 million.
Impact: Lower
state funding means school district must either charge families more for school
meals or shift more money from other operating areas to subsidize student
meals. Districts already face problems of families failing to pay for meals.
Here are the details: