School districts, and now newspaper editorials, see today's KC Star,
only want to talk about base state aid when it comes to discussions about K-12 finance in Kansas. However, base state aid is only about 30% of this year's estimated total funding.
Here are some facts that are conveniently ignored in too many discussions of school funding. Every fact below comes from the Kansas Dept. Of Education; Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis provided the 2012 estimates to KPI last November.
Total spending in 2012 is predicted to be $5.672 billion and set a record. State aid is set to account for $3.157 billion, at $6,931 per-pupil. That is more than double base state aid.
While there have been recent declines in state aid, they have been grossly overstated. 2012 aid is only 4% below the 2009 peak but is 34% higher than in 2005.
A good portion of these increases have gone directly to Instructional spending, as defined by the state. In fact, that number has increased 87% between 1999 and 2011 and more than double the combined rates of inflation (32%) and FTE enrollment (1%).
At the same time spending has increased, current operating cash reserves (excluding capital outlay, federal and bond payment funds) have increased to a record-high $868 million at the beginning of this year. That’s 90% more than was in those accounts in 2005. The balances increased more than $400 million as state and local tax dollars were not spent.
Some level of reserves is appropriate, but districts had no cash flow problems when they had $500 million in reserves. They could and should spend some of that money left over from prior years while still operating responsibly.
If the Senate gets their way and spends $74 million it would reduce the State’s ending balance. How is it logical for the State to spend reserves but not school districts, especially since districts' reserves are far greater than the State's?
The Senate plan is not logical...or prudent. It is political.