Senate budget plan approved in committee Tuesday would cut $6.2 million from Shawnee Mission schools by end of June

Jim Denning (left) at a candidate forum in September ahead of his reelection this past fall.
Jim Denning (left) at a candidate forum in September ahead of his reelection this past fall.

A budget plan approved by the Kansas Senate’s Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday would cut 5 percent from K-12 school funding this fiscal year, a move that would prevent $6.2 million the Shawnee Mission School District was expecting to receive under the block grant bill it supported two years ago from reaching district coffers.

In an afternoon press briefing on the proposal covered by the Topeka Capital-Journal, Sen. Jim Denning of Overland Park, the majority leader, said as the single largest line item in the state’s budget, K-12 education needed to help the state make ends meet.

“The only place left to do a structural fix to get everything stabilized so we can do tax policy, write a school finance formula and get the state back on long-term financial footing, is that we needed the education community to share in the cuts this go-around,” the Capital-Journal reported Denning saying. “We’ve protected them with provisos and a block grant, but with a $350 million deficit, we need them to help us get through this shortfall.”

Denning and Gov. Sam Brownback found themselves at odds earlier this week as Brownback took aim at the senate’s overall budget proposal, which includes closing the LLC loophole and raising some income taxes, steps Brownback said would “needlessly harms the real people that serve as the lifeblood of Kansas.”

The cuts approved as part of the Ways and Means Committee’s plan are less severe than the worst-case-scenario Shawnee Mission leaders had forecast in recent weeks. Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson warned the board of education at its January meeting that rough plans being floated around the capital at the time would have sapped as much as $11 million from the district. He told a group of parents and public education advocates at a question and answer session last week that the district had already planned to dip into reserves this fiscal year to make ends meet. A further reduction of funds may draw down the district’s fund balance to the point that it threatens its bond rating, Hinson said.

Should the Ways and Means proposal get final approval, the Wichita School District would be hardest hit, losing more than $14 million in planned funding. In Johnson County, Olathe would suffer the most, losing $6.35 million. Blue Valley schools would lose $4.5 million.

The Kansas Legislative Research Department’s summary of how the Ways and Means Committee plan would affect individual school districts in the state is embedded below: