In spite of our governmental leadership at the state level that has put our state on track to reach a level of unconstitutional indebtedness, USD223 will continue to be vigilant in our efforts to offer an excellent education to our students. I am confident that our teachers will continue with their unwavering dedication to our students in spite of difficult times.
I, like many of you, continue to read, interpret and reflect upon the recommended changes to the school finance formula as presented by Gov. Brownback. I’m a supporter of our current formula if properly funded. However, no matter how frustrated, confused or disappointed I might personally be regarding these recommendations, we all must take the high road and work together making the best out of the unknown. The Governor has proposed to eliminate our current school funding formula and replace it with “Block Grants” for the next two years so a “new” formula can be written. I cannot professionally or ethically get involved in the politics of the matter, but I can tell you that once the details are unveiled and KSDE (Kansas Department of Education), KASB (Kansas Association of School Boards), and others understand the implications for these recommended “Block Grants” to fund schools, there will be many legislative hurdles that must be worked through prior to adoption for 2015-2016 & 2016-2017 school years. Several people ask questions about the Governor's recent funding cuts. For the most part, it seems they have been told that the cut is simply a reduction of last year's increase. That is true for the state but mostly not true for school districts.
Here are some interpretations of the Governor’s Plan:
1. On February 5, 2015, Governor Brownback announced a mandatory 1.5% decrease in the Base State Aide per Pupil effective March 7th. These are cuts that don’t require legislative approval and loss of $27,246 to USD223
2. The budget for general state aide, supplemental aide/LOB, and capital outlay will be funded based upon current law for fiscal year 2015.
3. Starting in 2016, the Governor is recommending block grants for all of the funds stated above. These block grants reduce funding by $127,399,537 for all operating funds. Total funding would be reduced by just over $22 million.
4. The Governor’s proposal repeals all weightings starting in 2015-2016.
5. The State will continue to pay for its portion of KPERS as in the past.
6. The distribution of how the block grants and any budget or levy limitations is unknown at this time. It will likely be determined by the Legislature.
7. KDOT found out a few weeks ago a planned $297 million for road repair will be delayed this year.
8. The Governor provided additional funding for districts that have raised their LOB and Capital Outlay for this year. However, when you factor in the State paying for KPERS increases the next two years, it actually will reduce the overall block grant and the money available for operating budgets in 2016 and 2017.
9. If the authority for local option budget and capital outlay levies is repealed along with the rest of the school finance formula, or blocked by the courts without an equalization system as required by the Supreme Court ruling, the reduction of school funding would be much higher than the budgeted $127 million. On the other hand, if local tax authority is increased because it would not be limited to a percentage of the current general fund, some districts could increase their total funding if supported by their local taxpayers.
10. Senate Bill 71 is still working its way through our legislature. It amends the method for computing supplemental general state aid (local option budget) and was introduced by the Senate Ways and Means Committee on January 26, 2015. This bill would be a decrease to USD223 of an additional $58,446 for this current school year.
Superintendents, Board members, and educators are concerned all across the state with the uncertainty of educational finance and what it means to them the next couple of years. I share these same concerns. However, I want to stress to all readers, we are in as good a position financially as we can possibly be as we embrace these changes.
We must keep in mind, the many positives going on in USD 223. The Barnes-Hanover-Linn School District is a great district because we have great students and great staff! No matter what some people in Topeka and elsewhere say about public education, or the amount of money we take from the State’s Budget, I know in USD 223, the teachers care, they achieve, they work, and they are positive about what we do for our students.
I thank USD223 and the community for your support in these trying fiscal and educational times.
Brian Cordel, USD223 Superintendent