As the Kansas Supreme Court considers ordering more school spending, and as school spending boosters continue their never-ending mantra that school spending has been slashed, an inconvenient fact remains constant: Kansas schools don’t spend all the money they’ve been given, and the pile of unspent cash continues to grow, although it leveled off in the most recent year for which there is data.
In 2011, the Kansas Policy Institute commented on these funds and the rising balances: “We continue to hear about schools choosing to cut classroom spending, but many districts are not spending all of their state and local tax income. These funds operate much like personal checking accounts; the unencumbered balances only increase when income is greater than spending. It will be interesting to see how Kansas school districts use the new authority they have which makes it easier to spend down these balances.”
School district officials contend that school districts need to maintain fund balances for cash management purposes. That’s true, but it doesn’t explain why the fund balances have risen — and risen rapidly — year after year.
I’ve gathered data about unspent Kansas school funds and presented it as an interactive visualization. Explore the data yourself by using the visualization below, or click here to open it in a new window, which may work better for some people. Data is from Kansas State Department of Education. Visualization created by myself using Tableau Public.