Not only does Gov. Sam Brownback want to cut $127 million in school operating funding next year, but some lawmakers want to cut $39 million this current year – even though the school year is more than half over and the cut would disproportionately hurt poorer school districts.
Senate Bill 71, which is expected to have a hearing next week in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, would change how the state calculates its supplemental aid to school districts. This is aid that helps equalize the cost of local option budgets between districts, thus reducing the local property tax burden in many districts.
Lawmakers are frustrated that this year’s supplemental aid costs more than they expected, so they want to change how it is calculated.
It is fine to review that calculation and consider whether there is a better or fairer way to equalize funding. But having a large funding reduction apply to the current year would be difficult for school districts, which already budgeted for and made contractual agreements based on their LOB funding.
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Wichita would be hit with 10 percent of the statewide cut, or $3.9 million, according to the Kansas State Department of Education. Other Sedgwick County school districts facing cuts are Derby, $513,485; Maize, $430,929; Goddard, $302,760; Haysville, $188,063; Mulvane, $153,343; Valley Center, $150,848; Renwick, $143,767; Clearwater, $83,167; and Cheney, $46,562.
In addition to these possible cuts, the House Appropriations Committee approved an amendment Thursday that would delay the state’s capital outlay equalization funding to school districts. The state would pay $25 million of the payments due in February and delay the remaining $20 million in funding until June 20. Wichita’s delayed payment would be more than $3.5 million. Brownback’s budget plan called for delaying all $45 million in payments until after June 15.
The purpose of the delay is to help the state’s cash flow, but it could make it harder for some districts to pay their bills – not that many lawmakers seem to care.
For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee