The Kansas State Board of Education has approved a budget request for the 2021-22 school year that would increase K-12 state aid by more than $140 million over the current year, with most of the funding already approved by the Kansas Legislature.
Base Aid for Student Excellence (Base state aid per pupil). This is the largest state aid program and provides the foundation per pupil amount. The Legislature has already approved $3.254 billion in BASE aid for next year, an increase of $98 million over the school year beginning this fall. That would raise BASE aid per pupil from $4,569 to $4,706. BASE aid per pupil is multiplied by weighted enrollment to determine each district’s general fund budget.
Beginning in 2018, the Legislature has been increasing BASE aid in response to the Gannon school finance case, with a target of restoring general funding to approximately the 2009 level after adjusting for inflation over six years. A final increase in the BASE amount to $4,846 has been approved for 2022-23, at an estimated cost of $101 million. After that, the BASE is to be automatically adjusted by the Consumer Price Index – Midwest each year.
At-Risk Funding. Although not part of the State Board’s request for state funding, Department of Education staff told the Board they plan to request $44.9 million in federal aid provided to cover COVID-19 costs. Staff say they expect the economic effects of the pandemic on Kansas jobs and income will increase the number of students qualifying for free meals, which is the number used in each district to determine at-risk weighting funds for student assistance programs.
If at-risk enrollment increases, additional funding will have to be added or the BASE amount prorated.
In its appropriations bill for state agencies, the Legislature extended the high-density at-risk weighting, which provides additional funding for districts with high percentages of free lunch eligible students, for 2021 and 2022. Unless the Legislature further extends the program, it will sunset in 2022. Currently, it provides approximately $50 million in aid to higher poverty districts.
Supplemental General State Aid (Local Option Budget Aid). The Legislature has approved $521.2 million in LOB state aid for 2022, an increase of $7.8 million over the current year. Local school boards may adopt Local Option Budgets of up to 33 percent of their general fund. This aid is allocated to districts based on their assessed property valuation per pupil to “equalize” funding raised by local property taxes.
KSDE officials said they will request an additional $6.1 million in federal COVID aid if the request for at-risk aid is approved, because more weighted students would increase general fund budgets and therefore the amount authorized for Local Options Budgets.
Capital Improvement (Bond and Interest) and Capital Outlay State. Both of these programs also provide state aid to districts based on property valuation per pupil, under formulas in current law. Capital improvement aid assists districts an annual payment for construction bond projects and is expected in increase by $5 million to $218 million in 2022.
Capital outlay aid provides matching funding for qualifying district capital outlay mill levies which may be used for building construction, remodeling, equipment and certain operating costs. The Legislature has already approved an increase of $2.7 million to $75.8 million in 2022.
Special Education State Aid. These funds help districts pay for the “excess cost” of services to students with disabilities and gifted students, as required by federal and state law. Under the five-year school finance phase-in plan, funding in 2022 will increase by $7.5 million to $512.8 million.
KSDE officials estimate this funding will cover 69.2 percent of “excess cost” in 2022. Under state law, the state is supposed to cover 92 percent of excess cost. Despite that law, it is up to the Legislature to determine how much is provided. The State Board voted to request an additional $20.8 million increase, for a total of $533.6 million, in special education aid, to maintain the 2021 level of 72 percent.
These five programs total about $4.5 billion. This does not include an estimated $544 million in contributions for school district employees under the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System paid by the state, which is determined by a formula set by the Legislature.
Except for special education, these programs have been approved by the Kansas Supreme Court to settle both the adequacy and equity portions of the Gannon case.
In addition to these major school finance programs, the State Board approved 2021-22 requests for a number of small aid programs.
Juvenile Detention Facilities. Assists districts with costs of serving student in these facilities. Board requested $5.1 million to fund current law, same as current year.
Parents as Teachers. Assists districts in paying for programs to work with parents of children birth through 2 years. Board requested $8.4 million, same as current year.
Mentor Teachers. Assist districts in setting up programs that pay a stipend to experienced teachers who work with new teachers. Board requested $2.3 million, an increase of $1 million, to expand the program for mentoring teachers in their first year to teachers in the first two years.
Professional Development. Provides matching funds for district programs to help teachers improve their professional effectiveness. Board requested $1.7 million, same as current year.
School Lunch. State matching funds to received federal school meals assistance. Board requested $2.5 million, the minimum required to meet federal maintenance of effort requirements, same as current year.
National Teacher Board Certification. Reimburses school districts for stipends paid to teachers who receive certification from a national board. Board requested $360,000, same as current year.
Pre-K Pilot Program. Funding for school districts to provide preschool programs for three- and four-year-olds, with at least 50 percent at-risk. Board requested $8.3 million, same as current year.
Career and Technical Education Transportation. Assists districts in providing transportation for high school students attending CTE programs at postsecondary institutions. Board requested $650,000, same as current year.
Discretionary Grants. Provides grants to school districts and non-school providers for after programs. Board requested $312,500, same as current year.
Information Technology Education Opportunities. Funds testing fees for high school students seeking to obtain Microsoft Office certification. Board requested $500,000, same as current year.
Mental Health Intervention Team Pilot. Funds school district partnerships with community mental health centers to increase student access to counselors, social workers and psychologists. Board requested $9 million, same as current year after Gov. Laura Kelly reduced funding approved by the Legislature in her budget allotments.
ACT and Workkeys Assessment. Allows all Kansas high school students to take the ACT test and Workkeys test each one time at no cost. Board requested $3.4 million, an increase of $600,000 over the current year due to an estimated increase in the contract with ACT.
The Board did not request any funding for two programs previously approved by the Kansas Legislature for 2021. The Legislature appropriated $300,000 for a Juvenile Transitional Crisis Pilot program in Beloit and $5 million for school safety grants. Those funds were eliminated by Gov. Kelly in her 2021 budget allotments.