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Kansas School Districts Make Case For More State Aid

Sam Zeff

It will be a tense day at the Kansas Statehouse Monday as 38 school districts ask the state for more money on top of the block grants they received for this school year.

The districts are asking for Extraordinary Needs Funding, money set aside by the Legislature when it dumped the previous school funding formula for the block grant scheme. The $12.3 million pool is for districts who claim an extraordinary increase in enrollment or plummeting real estate values.

The applications for the Extraordinary Needs Funding go before the State Finance Council Monday. The council is chaired by Gov. Sam Brownback and dominated by conservative Republican legislative leaders. In a letter the council asked the districts to provide five examples of how they have "innovated and used efficiencies to improve outcomes in the classroom."

The Kansas City, Kansas district responded with a two-page letter that starts by saying how much less money the district has received from the state in the last five years. "KCKPS has been forced to cut more than $56 million in spending since 2010 because of significant reductions in state aid, along with rising costs of goods and services," the letter from Superintendent Cynthia Lane said.

The governor and GOP legislative leaders have said the state is spending a record amount on K-12 education this year. Most of that additional spending, however, is money that goes directly into the teachers retirement system.

Lane's letter goes on to say that those reductions in state aid "have gone far beyond the goal of efficiency, and are directly impacting what we are able to provide for our students."

KCK is asking for about $2.1 million in extraordinary needs money to help pay for 500 new students this year. Olathe has requested about $450,000 for increased enrollment. Olathe said it would release its response after the State Finance Council convenes Monday at 10:00 am. 

KCK did outline five ways it says efficiency has improved. They include a streamlined accounts payable system, two facilities sold to consolidate programs and the purchase of 43 compressed natural gas buses.

In all, the 38 districts are asking for a total of $15 million in additional funding so some districts will not get as much as they want.

Three other area districts have applied.

The Piper and Bonner Springs districts in Wyandotte County are also asking for more state aid due to enrollment increases. Piper wants an additional $239,000 and Bonner Springs is asking for $155,000.

Spring Hill in Johnson County has applied for about $618,000 more from the state.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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