How much has Wichita and Kansas public school funding decreased?
It depends on who you ask, and the context, too.
The school spending lobby is portraying the decline in funding in ways that make the numbers appear as bad as possible. For example, the Wichita Public Schools 2010 legislative platform states “Since January 2009, funding for regular education has decreased by 9.5%.”
If the total amount of money schools has to spend had fallen by that amount, that would be one thing. But this figure looks at only a portion of total school funding.
What does the 9.5% figure represent? In a resolution to be voted on Monday by the Wichita school board, we can read this: “the Kansas Legislature and the Governor have thus far cut funding to schools by reducing the Base Budget Per Pupil by $421, a 9.5% cut.”
That’s it. It’s base state aid per pupil that was cut by 9.5%, or $421. But base state aid per pupil is only a portion of total school spending. In the case of the Wichita school district, it’s less than one-third of total funding and spending.
To put a cut of $421 in context, consider the total spending by USD 259. It’s somewhere around $13,000 per pupil. $421 is 3.2% of that.
That figure is in line with the picture that Kansas schools statewide face. Recently I asked for updated Kansas school spending figures after the governor’s cuts near the end of November. The document I received from the Kansas State Department of Education indicates that for the current school year, spending per pupil is estimated to decline by 3.43%.
It’s interesting to note that for the last school year, spending increased by 3.87%.
(The document I received is available by clicking on Kansas School Spending, December 2009.)
Information on the true financial picture of Kansas schools is sometimes difficult to come by, as shown above. The school spending lobby — seeking to expand school spending as much as possible — often refuses to acknowledge basic facts and will shade other facts.