Last night KSN Television reported on a possible revival of the Kansas school funding lawsuit.
In the story, Dr. John Morton, the Newton school superintendent, said “I am fearful that we have fallen well below adequacy.” He also complained that “we did not get anywhere in proposing a one-cent sales tax increase.”
For the upcoming budget year, overall Kansas spending was cut by about 6.5%. Schools escaped with a cut of only 2.75% in state funding. When combined with other sources of school revenue, the cut to most districts will be a smaller percentage.
If the warnings of the school spending lobby as represented by Morton are true, the education of the children of Kansas hangs by a thread each year. Do small cuts such as the 2.75% imposed this year really mean that the schools won’t be able to do their job?
Most Kansans realize that these predictions made by the school spending lobby are nonsense. The problem is that our courts might be persuaded otherwise, as they have been in the past.
The context of the cut in school spending is important to realize. Spending on schools in Kansas in recent years has been increasing rapidly — so rapidly that school spending apologists either don’t know (or don’t want to admit) just how much schools have to spend. This was demonstrated by Rep. Melody McCray-Miller at a recent legislative forum in Wichita. Wichita board of education member Lanora Nolan disputed these same figures at a Wichita Pachyderm Club meeting.
Just how fast school spending has been increasing can be seen in the charts in the post Kansas school lobby: not enough spending, not enough taxation. A chart of spending by USD 259, the Wichita public school district, is at Wichita Public School Spending and Enrollment.
Recently-elected Kansas State Board of Education member Walt Chappell has proposed some ways for schools to economize on spending. These are presented in my post Substantial cuts in Kansas K-12 spending necessary, possible this year. His detailed explanation of how savings could be accomplished are there, too.
The lesson to learn from Newton’s Morton is that there is probably no level of taxation and spending that would satisfy the school spending lobby. Despite the fact that Kansans are cutting their personal budgets, and other state agencies are making big cuts, the school spending lobby refuses to shoulder its share of cuts.
A link to the news story as reported on KSN is School leaders consider funding lawsuit.