Contrary to media reports and claims by many local education officials, data provided by the Kansas Department of Education shows that state aid to Kansas school districts will increase this year with the new block grants. How can that be? Well, when government talks about a ‘budget cut,’ that most often means that the rate of increased spending is less than it desires rather than an actual reduction in spending– and that is the case with block grants and state funding.
Excluding state funding for KPERS, special education, bond & interest and a few small aid programs (as described by Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis), state aid to schools totaled $2.951 billion last year and will increase to $3.093 billion this year. The total hits $3.114 billion in the 2017 school year, or 5.6% more than this year. KPERS spending is expected to increase by $124.4 million over the period, so state aid including KPERS (but not the other exclusions noted herein) would increase by 8.8% over three years.
Two of the three Lyon County districts will receive more state aid under the block grant approach. Southern Lyon (USD 252) will get 2% more and state aid to Emporia (USD 253), by far the largest of the three districts, will increase more than $1.4 million (4.7%). North Lyon (USD 251), a district that experienced a 6.2% decrease in enrollment in 2014-15 and whose enrollment is down 26.9% over the last ten years, will see a decrease in state aid by 9.3%. This enrollment decline effectively ended North Lyon’s LOB assistance from the state. A full explanation of the phenomenon in which small districts with decreasing enrollment do not receive LOB assistance, while districts like Blue Valley (USD 229) and Wichita (USD 259) receive help intended for “property poor” districts is available here.
Total aid to schools will also increase this year to $6.145 billion and set a record for the fourth consecutive year. The per-pupil amount of $13,343 will set a record for the third consecutive year. KDSE says the proposed block grants for the current school year total $3.408 billion (updated as of March 25 and including KPERS), but the block grants do not include state funding for Special Education or Bond &Interest aid. Including those amounts as listed in the Governor’s Budget Report puts total state aid at $3.982 billion. A few months ago, KSDE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Dale Dennis estimated Local aid at $1.652 billion and Federal aid at $510 million.
Here is a historical perspective on per-pupil school funding, adjusted upward for KPERS in the years prior to 2005 when it wasn’t included in KSDE funding reports. The solid blue line shows actual funding and the dashed red line show what funding would have if adjusted for inflation each year. FYI, funding this year would be $1.541 billion less if it had just been increased for inflation and enrollment.