Most Kansas school districts have money available in contingency and flexible funds to weather a 5 percent cut in funding, a proposal before the Kanas Senate. The Senate Ways and Means Committee yesterday forwarded a bill, SB 27, that would cut more than $150 million in spending, including $128 million in cuts to K-12 education and $23 million to higher education.
Moderate Republicans, who campaigned on the importance of school funding, were instrumental in passing the bill out of the Senate committee. John Skubal, a Leawood Republican, lists school funding as one of his key issues on his campaign website.
“As outlined by the Kansas Constitution, the Legislature must adequately fund education services,” his campaign website reads. “Since 2012, there has been a steady stream of assaults on this basic function of the Kansas government by extremist legislators and the Governor.”
Skubal represents patrons of the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley School Districts. Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican who also represents patrons in both school districts, voted to forward the spending cuts to the full Senate as well. Both districts have money in reserve or flexible funds available to weather the cut. The Shawnee Mission School District showed a reserve balance of more than $8 million on Jan. 1. The district would lose $6.2 million in funding. Blue Valley has reserve funds of more than $13.1 million. With the proposed cut, the district would need to come up with $4.5 million from its reserves or through spending cuts.
Sen. Ed Berger, a Hutchinson Republican, agreed to forward the school funding cut to the full Senate.
“Schools aren’t adequately being funded in a way that ensures the children of Kansas receive a quality education,” his campaign website reads.
The Hutchinson School District had $5.7 million in available contingency funds as of Jan. 1. Under the Senate Ways and Means proposal, the district would lose $1.2 million in state funding it anticipated this year.
The majority of Kansas school districts have enough funds in contingency reserve or flexible spending accounts to sustain the state aid cuts without eliminating services, but there are a few districts, like Hugoton Public Schools that don’t have enough money in reserves to weather the cuts without impacting services. The Hugoton district would lose $328,000 in anticipated funding. On Jan. 1, it only had $289,000 available in contingency reserve or flexible funds.
The bill does include the creation of a $15 million fund that would be used to help mitigate 2017 state aid cuts to districts with limited flexible and reserve funds available. Districts would have to apply for that additional funding.
Sen. John Doll, a Garden City Republican, represents patrons in 19 school districts in southwest Kansas, including the Hugoton Public Schools. He voted to forward the proposed K-12 spending cuts to the full Senate for consideration. On his campaign page, Doll worries that southwest Kansas schools have endured far too many funding cuts.
“The fat has been trimmed and now districts are beginning to look at reducing core functions just to keep the lights on,” his website reads.
The largest school district in Doll’s district, Garden City School District, would receive $2.1 million less in state aid if SB 27 becomes law. However, Garden City has enough in reserve funds, $3.3 million, to sustain services.
Other Republicans voting to forward the school funding cut proposal include Sens. Larry Alley of Winfield, Rick Billinger of Goodland, Dan Goddard of Parsons, and Carolyn McGinn of Sedgwick. The three Democratic members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, Sens. Tom Hawk, Anthony Hensley, and Laura Kelly, along with Republican Vicky Schmidt voted against forwarding the school spending cut legislation to the Senate for consideration.
The Senate could vote on the legislation as early as Thursday. View a pdf of how the cuts would impact individual school districts here.