Submitted graphic courtesy of KSDE
Under current statutes taxpayers could pay to educate some students twice under the school finance formula, and the GE district could net up to $2.8 million for students not enrolled.
“Yes, as the statutes are set now, it is possible the same student will be counted twice in the funding formula,” said Dr. S. Craig Neuenswander, deputy commissioner, Kansas State Department of Education. “Similarly, if the student returns to the traditional school next year, it is possible the student won’t be counted at all in the funding formula.”
Although schools were closed due to the pandemic last March, there is no mechanism in place to rebate parents for educational services not received. “I am not aware of any such mechanism,” Neuenswander said.
Currently Kansas pays a flat $5,000 for students who enroll in a virtual program, such as Spring Hill or Lawrence, and traditional funding is about $4,800, base, without “weighting.”
Parents in the USD 231 district pay about $4,700 (up to $10,000 depending on student weighting) to educate their student; however, if they have elected to send their child to a virtual school in a different district, they could end up paying (thru taxes) an additional $5,000 which Kansas allows for virtual students.
The GE district lost 280 students this year; however, tax money received by the district will not decrease — they will be paid for the 280 (absent) students. If those students are enrolled in a virtual school elsewhere, the virtual school will also receive state funding.
Under current law (KSA 72-5132), the funding formula allows districts to use the higher of the first preceding year’s enrollment or the second preceding year’s enrollment, according to Ben Boothe, USD 231 public information officer.
Gardner will continue to receive the state aid based on last year’s FTE, or from $1.3 million to $2 million base aid. Actual weighted funding was up to $10,000 per student, according to the Kansas State Department of Education website, which would cause a surplus of $2.8 million received for students no longer enrolled. FTE stands for full time enrollment equivalent.
“The district’s audited enrollment for Sept. 20, 2019 is 5,955.7 FTE and for Sept. 20, 2020 unaudited is 5,686.7 FTE,” Boothe said Therefore, the district’s adjusted enrollment in 2021-22 (next school year) will be funded at 5,955.7 FTE based on the 2019-20 school year. For the 2022-23 school year, funding would be based on the higher of Sept. 20, 2020 or Sept. 20, 2021 FTE enrollment.
In Spring Hill, traditional student enrollment increased by 69, from 3,313 to 3,382, according to Doug Schwinn, USD 230 director of business.
SH’s virtual school enrollment nearly doubled. “We knew it was going to jump,” Schwinn said. “It’s almost doubled in population and includes kids from all over Kansas.”
Enrollment went from 1,145 to 2,405. Districts receive $5,000 per student for those enrolled in a virtual school.
So taxpayers who placed their students in a virtual school may end up paying twice: once for the traditional “bricks and mortar” school, and again for the virtual school.
In 2022-23 base student aid increases from $4,706 to $4,846, which could potentially offset the decrease in enrollment experienced during 2020-21 school year due to COVID, according to Boothe. “If that should be the higher FTE enrollment, to result in an approximately $469,776 reduction of state aid.”
According to USD 231, as of Sept. 22 there were 5,840 preschool through high school students enrolled for this school year which represents a decline of approximately 280 students from this time last year, and is 424 fewer students than our demographer projected.
Enrollment was down at all levels; elementary, middle and high school, but was most notable at the elementary level, which was down 244 students, including 88 fewer preschool students.