••• Education •••

School Districts Plan Large Spending Increases

A sampling of fifteen of the largest school districts in Kansas shows each district plans to spend more this year and most are budgeting fairly large spending increases – at the same time that the Kansas Supreme Court says schools are underfunded and school cash reserves set another record last year.

The Department of Education hasn’t published statewide data yet but reports published on district web sites show the budgeted increases range from 4 percent to 22 percent, including funding from all revenue sources.  Only four of the districts report spending less last year than in the 2016 school year.

The Legislature increased state funding by $327 million this year according to the July Comparison Report, including a $121 million increase because of deferred KPERS pension payments.  The Kansas Supreme Court indicates it may require an additional $600 million to $1.4 billion annually or it may order schools closed.  The Legislature has until April 30, 2018 to submit revised funding and the court will render its decision within 60 days.

Should the Legislature capitulate to the court, just providing the minimum $600 million could add 19.5 mills of property tax, push the state sales tax to the highest rate in the nation, add a 20 percent income tax surcharge on top of record-setting increases already approved by the Legislature or require an 18 percent funding reduction in other General Fund agencies.