The Wichita School District Board of Education approved a $270,000 contract for internet services without discussion or debate, according to the Wichita Eagle.
A unanimous board approved the expenditure as part of the consent agenda. The $270,000 contract with Level 3 Communications is in addition to a $150,000 contract with the company for Always On Internet Protection.
According to the Eagle, the district is experiencing “intermittent internet issues.”
The Wichita School District is one of four districts that sued the state in the recent Gannon school finance case. In an opinion issued last week, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled current school funding is inadequate and inequitable. Under the funding formula the Court just rejected, Kansas public school districts received a share of an additional $195 million in state aid this year, and they were set to receive more next year. The Wichita School District, the state’s largest, received about $17 million more in general state aid funding.
In 2016, the Wichita district was sitting on more than $94 million in cash reserves, not including capital outlay and bond reserves. Also that year, the board slashed its budget by $18 million, closing an alternative high school and eliminating more than 100 staff members.
The Supreme Court didn’t specify a dollar amount necessary to accomplish adequacy and equitability, but the plaintiffs’ attorney suggested that a minimum of $600 million in new funding for all Kansas’ 286 school districts would be required to satisfy the funding moving target. To raise that much in additional funding, lawmakers could consider nearly doubling the statewide mill levy from 20 mills to 39.5 mills.
According to Kansas Policy Institute, that would require the owner of a $200,000 home to pony up $449 more per year in property taxes. The owner of a $1 million commercial property would owe an additional $4,875.
Lawmakers could rely on sales taxes to provide an additional $600 million to public schools, but to do so would require increasing the existing state sales tax rate of 6.5 percent to 7.9 percent. A third option would be to increase income tax rates by about 20 percent. For top bracket, those making more than $30,000 per year, would pay 6.83 percent in income tax, up from 5.7 percent.
Those scenarios, according to KPI, would be “devastating tax hikes on top of record-setting tax increases just passed.”
Legislators could cut other state fund expenditures to accommodate plaintiff’s lowest demands of adding $600 million for public schools. That, however, would require cutting other state services and functions by 43 percent.
None of the options would improve student outcomes, according to KPI.
“Even researchers who believe there is some degree of correlation between spending more and improving outcomes admit that spending more doesn’t cause anything to change; it’s how money is spent that can make a difference rather than the amount spent,” a KPI blog post reads.
Will the Wichita district expenditure of an additional $270,000 for enhanced internet improve student outcomes? Stay tuned.