The assertion that Kansas schools have
a surplus of $1.498 billion for operations is misleading.
$451.7 million of this is Capital Outlay.
The Kansas Constitution limits it use; it involved a
special mill levy.
$344.3 million is in bonds. That money
is only for bond use and the revenue is needed from
July onward to service those bonds.
$207.5 million is for special education
and special ed co-ops. That revenue must cover July1
to October 25 expenses in those areas.
Yes there are $175.7 million in “contingency
reserves,” monies saved for a rainy day by school officials
being careful over the last few years to sequester any
leftover funds. The KSDE has kept Kansas superintendents
aware of the growing shortfalls. Administrators, where
they have had the opportunity, have saved. And they
will start tapping those dollars in a few weeks.
Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP) was
supposed to be $4,218 for the new year. However, there
was an increase in school district enrollment, a decrease
of a half billion dollars in assessed valuations statewide,
a 13% increase in students with free lunches, and slight
increases in bilingual and virtual students. This would
normally trigger the Governor and Legislature to appropriate
$100 million more to hold the $4,218 BSAPP for the current
school year. Under our current shortfall, that of course
will not happen. This effectively drops BSAPP to $4,068.
Now, with Kansas being a balanced budget
state and revenues running $260 million short, the Governor
has no recourse but to take back even more. We are looking
at school funding being pushed back to 2000-2001 levels.
Schools drew up teacher contracts for
this full school year based on the $4,218 BSAPP income,
but will now finish out the school year getting less
than that from the state. That is where any contingency
reserves will be critical for the schools that have
them. Schools without may face financial “exigency”
—they will be unable to meet commitments. Some are facing
this situation already.
Is it possible to break into and use
the capital outlay, bonds, and special ed funds? Some
states have found ways to raid their committed funds.
As a result, states such as California have bonds that
are now rated barely above junk bonds. Kansas is not
California, and most Kansans are proud of that.
Kansas farmers are also wise enough
to know that if you have a bumper year, it is wise to
not spend it all but to put as much as possible away
for a “rainy day.” Kansas did have some bumper tax income
years in the 1990s. But the same political philosophy
that is pushing to raid our committed funds was responsible
for tax cuts that prevented Kansas saving for a rainy
There were over 2100 licensed school
personnel teaching last year who were not hired back
this fall, and about 1600 unlicensed staff (along with
programs) lost due to the previous $185 million budget
cut. The $138 million in stimulus money already in the
budget probably kept that number from exceeding 5000
personnel out-of-work. Where we lost two educators,
we would have lost three without the federal money.
But the stimulus money is short term. And state revenues
continue to decline.
This is the season many Kansans watch
“It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you want to see the difference
between the market philosophy and the public good philosophy,
compare the desolate Potterville run by the private
banker, with the public good represented by the character
played by Jimmy Stewart. But instead of pointing out
that the money is invested in “your house, and your
house, and your house,” he is saying it is invested
in “your child, and your child, and your child.”