Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Jim Hinson on Monday categorized the district’s financial prospects as “bleak” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling this month that the block grant bill the district supported is unconstitutional, and said that teacher layoffs and rising class sizes were a possibility for the 2016-2017 school year.
The district already faced the prospect of having to reallocate approximately $4 million just to move district personnel up the salary schedule for completing an additional year of service and professional development milestones. But as the legislature faces a June 30 deadline to reinstall a constitutional funding structure for public schools, the district is preparing for a loss of revenue of up to $8 million.
“So $4 million we’re already in the hole to start with, that we have to reallocate,” Hinson told the Board of Education. “That is before we face the potential cuts that we could see from the legislature from the Gannon decision. I do not see any scenario where we will see an increase in revenue…The likelihood that we will receive the same level of funding is small. The likelihood that we will lose millions of dollars we are currently receiving is pretty high. So, what we are working on internally right now is a situation where our budget is bleak.”
Hinson said that rising class sizes were a real possibility.
“I don’t want to scare anybody at all, but also we have to be realistic,” he said. “What we are facing could have a significant impact on the programs and services and class sizes we currently have in the Shawnee Mission School District.”
The reallocation of funds from the district’s budget under the block grant last year allowed for the reduction of class sizes in all elementary grades for the 2015-2016 school year. Those improvements now appear to be in serious jeopardy. Hinson said it was impossible to say at this time how large class sizes would grow if the possible revenue reductions come to fruition.
Hinson told reporters after the meeting he hoped legislators would act on the court’s ultimatum sooner rather than later so that the district could better plan for the 2016-2017 school year. The district must finalize many of its employment, service and construction contracts for the coming year before summer. He stressed that the district would be looking at cost savings in a variety of areas, including supplies, but that because personnel costs make up 85 percent of the district’s budget, they could need to be reduced.
Hinson again defended the district’s support of the controversial block grant bill, which was opposed by all northeast Johnson County legislators except Sen. Kay Wolf. He said that restoring components of the old funding formula would again put Shawnee Mission at a disadvantage relative to districts in less property-rich parts of the state.
“If the legislature complies with the court’s demands, it will take a lot of provisions of the old formula back to life again, which is where we lose money,” he said. “Best case scenario for the Shawnee Mission School District would be for the block grant bill to continue as it was put in place until a new formula could be written, be that this session or next session. But going back to components of the old formula, that’s what cost us money, and that’s why we supported the block grant in the first place.”