State aid to Kansas public schools topped $4 billion last school year, a record that’s likely to be smashed this year. Lawmakers agreed to add $293 million in school funding to be divvied out over the next two years.
According to data recently released by the Kansas Department of Education, state aid per pupil reached $8,714 last year. Overall, districts spent $13,236 per pupil during the 2017 school year. Officials project total per pupil spending will hit $13,647 next year. Both figures include KPERS pension funding, federal aid to schools and local property taxes used to fund schools. The Kansas Policy Institute published the department of education projections for next year and 2017 figures in a blog post.
If not for a change in the way kindergarten students are counted in the state funding formula, per-pupil funding would have topped $14,000 this year.
The spike in state aid per pupil spending includes a one-time state aid increase for funding full time kindergarten rather than half day kindergarten. Though state aid now includes those figures, most school districts were providing full day kindergarten using local funds or charging tuition.
“The new formula provides funding for a full day of kindergarten so students now count as full time instead of half time, and the Department of Education says this change added about 15,600 students to the FTE count,” KPI’s explains. “Otherwise, enrollment is expected to decline by about 1,000.”
Though school districts are being funded as never before, the Kansas Supreme Court issued an opinion demanding that lawmakers return to the drawing board on a school funding formula. Justices ruled the current financing formula unconstitutional earlier this year and set an April 2018 deadline for lawmakers to craft a new formula for Court consideration.
The Court’s opinion stopped short of listing a dollar amount necessary to meet Constitutional muster, but plaintiffs in the ongoing school financing case suggest schools need another $600 million.
Leaders in the Kansas Legislature appointed an interim committee that will study the Supreme Court’s ruling. The 11-member committee is expected to meet three times before Christmas and make school financing recommendations to the full legislature when the 2018 session begins in January.