The school finance plan developed by the House K-12 committee plan is sound; the amount of funding is justified but will be eroded the longer it is spread out

The school finance plan developed by the House K-12 committee plan is sound; the amount of funding is justified but will be eroded the longer it is spread out

This post is from a report on school finance released by KASB as the Kansas Legislature works to develop a new school finance plan in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court decision on adequate funding. Today: how the plan developed by the House K-12 Committee measures up in structure, and evidence to support the amount of new funding.

The structure of the House K-12 Committee plan is constitutionally sound, supported by evidence and addresses public concerns.

After two years of research, statewide input from school leaders and collaboration with other organizations, KASB adopted a set of school finance recommendations called Putting Students First. The proposed House committee plan meets most of those goals.

A. The plan includes three key component of school finance: per pupil funding, adjustments for different costs and equalized local flexibility.

It would return Kansas to a modified foundation formula used by all nine higher achieving states; and sets a higher foundational amount per student, although phased in over five years.
It restores weighting factors previously acceptable to Kansas Supreme Court, based on previous cost studies.

It authorizes local options for funding operating and building costs equalized at levels previously found acceptable by the court. The increases in base state aid will allow increased use of the proposed Local Foundation Budget.

B. The plan directs significant additional funding to lower performing students and to help more students reach higher levels.

Approximately 30 percent weighted enrollment under the plan would be for bilingual, at-risk and vocational weightings, so 30 percent “foundation” increases would go to those programs. In addition, the bill would expand funding for at-risk preschool by $2 million per year for five years.

The bill would fund students in all day kindergarten programs as full-time students, which many districts currently fund through at-risk weighting; which would allow funding to be directed at additional at-risk programs.

Foundation funding increases would allow schools to provide low class size, which is critical for helping at-risk students; restore or add teachers in high need area; and provide compensation to attract and retain quality staff, after Kansas teacher salaries have lagged behind inflation and declined in national ranking since 2008.

The plan would restore funding for two critical programs to improve instruction and promote innovative practices: teacher professional development and new teacher mentoring.

C. The plan bases accountability on meaningful measures of student success.

The bill provides accountability through the new accreditation system being implemented by the State Board of Education under the Kansans Can initiative. The effort is based on two years of public hearings, employer and higher education input and development by education leaders.
The new system has five outcomes: kindergarten readiness, individual career-based plans of study, social and emotional factors measured locally, higher graduation rates and higher postsecondary participation. The system will track student participation in technology and academic programs for two years after high school.

The amount of funding in the plan is justified by evidence, but this would be eroded the longer it takes to be fully implemented.

The Kansas Supreme Court did not order a specific total amount of funding; however, there are a number of indicators to suggest a range of funding levels required to provide “suitable” finance for educational improvement and student success.

A. Inflation since the funding was found constitutional under the Montoy decision and Legislative remedy.

The Kansas Supreme Court approved a three-year plan to provide suitable funding by 2009. Total school district funding in 2016 was about $525 million below 2009 levels when adjusted for inflation, and general operating funds (general fund, local option budget and special education aid) are over $600 million below. The House Committee plan provides a total of over $750 million, but would not be fully implemented for five years.

B. Previous rates of Kansas funding associated with educational improvement.

Rate of growth. Since 1990, school funding increased an average of approximately two percent more than inflation, over which time Kansas educational outcomes improved significantly. It would require an additional $162 million in general fund, LOB and special education to provide this rate of increase over the next two years. The House Committee plan would provide annual increases of approximately $150 million in general funding and special education aid per year for five years, plus additional authority for the local option budget as the foundation level increases.

Percentage of personal income. From 1975 to 2010, total school district funding in Kansas averaged 4.54 percent of state personal income. Based on the Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimate of state income growth, Kansas personal income will be $146.6 billion in 2017 and $152.3 billion in 2018. Providing total K-12 funding of 4.45 percent would equal $6.61 billion for 2017 and $6.914 for 2018, compared to $6.021 in 2016; or an increase of $590 million for 2017 and a further $300 million for 2018 – a two-year total of about $900 million. The House Committee plan would provide $750 million over five years.

C. States that have higher levels of overall student success.

After adjusting for regional cost differences, states that perform better than Kansas on 15 educational measures spent $2,855 more per pupil than Kansas in 2014, equal to over $1.3 billion more. The Midwestern states that outrank Kansas spend $1,407 more per pupil than Kansas, equal to $650.9 million more than Kansas. If Kansas funding had increased at the same rate as higher achieving states since 2008, total funding would be $1,385, or $640.7 million, higher.

D. Recommendations of the State Board of Education.

The State Board of Education, which seeks to implement the Kansans Can vision of preparing each student for success consistent with the Rose Capacities, has proposed a total increase of $893.5 million. Most of this money would increase the previous base state aid per pupil. It would also fund special education aid at the statutory level, and fund teacher mentoring and professional development.