September 2, 2014

Kansas Board of Ed seeks $525 million to fund new programs

Gene Meyer
KansasReporter
TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas State Board of Education members voted Tuesday to ask state legislators for at least $525 million in additonal money to help fund 10 state-required education programs to levels specified in state statutes.
The move, which followed rejection of a motion to only request a more modest $67 million increase to keep up with inflation, also freezes or eliminates funding for eight other popular state programs that state law doesn’t specifically require.
Board member Walt Chappell of Wichita predicted the approximately $1.4 billion request, which next will be forwarded to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback for inclusion in his 2013 budget proposal, “will be dead on arrival.”
“There is no way the (Kansas) Legislature will pass this bill,” said Chappell, who voted against both measures because he said they were out of line with fiscal reality in the state.
Board member Sue Storm of Overland Park, who voted for the larger request but against the smaller one, also agreed that the request seemed largely symbolic because legislators currently are more focused on cutting state government costs rather than increasing them. Legislators have for at least three years been cutting education spending to below statutorially set targets to help balance state budgets as recession ravaged tax revenues have fallen.
“But I believe that our role is to be advocates for the children of the state,” Storm said.
The request also is a largely conceptual one; state Department of Education staff members are planning to provide a more detailed outline of its total costs when the board’s July meeting resumes Wednesday morning.
But in round numbers, the request voted Tuesday would:
• Increase base state per pupil to a statutorially targeted $4,492 from $3,780 currently, raising that spending to a total $474.2 million.
• Increase supplemental general state aid, also known as local option budgets, to $408.7 million from $339.2 million now, and raise state spending for required special education programs to $449.5 million from $427.2 million now.
• Raise spending for the far smaller, but still statutorially required Parents as Teachers program about 4.5 percent, to the $7.6 million it was funded at in 2009, and seek appropriations for Mentor Teacher programs, which got no money this year, to $3.5 million specified by state statutue for next year. Another $3.5 million would be restored to professional development programs that have been unfunded since 2009.
• Increase state reimbursement for school lunches to 6 cents a meal from 4.3 cents paid now, which boost the potential total cost to $3.5 million from $2.5 million.
• Restore $25 million to state aid for school capital outlays, last funded for $22.6 million in 2009 and $300,000 for national board certification, which also was not funded this year.
The proposal also calls for freezing pre-kindergarten pilot program spending at the current $4.8 million, or about $200,000 less than initially proposed for 2013, and also freezing about $437,000 for after-school programs that educators initially considered doubling. None of those expenditures are required by state statutes.

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