Gov. Laura Kelly’s signing of the K-12 finance bill that will inject an additional $90 million in annual funding to Kansas public schools starting next school year is expected to result in the Shawnee Mission School District receiving $9.8 million in new general fund revenue.
But making amends for nearly a decade of unconstitutional funding levels will take time, district administrators said Monday.
In comments to the Board of Education at their meeting last night, Superintendent Mike Fulton thanked the legislature and governor for their passage of SB16, which will be reviewed by the Kansas Supreme Court in the coming weeks as part of long-running Gannon case regarding the constitutionality of public school funding in the state.
If the Supreme Court determines that the new bill passes muster, as most public education advocates believe is likely, Kansas schools will be funded at constitutional levels next year for the first time since 2010.
Board member Heather Ousley, who first became involved in public school funding advocacy several years ago over concerns about cuts to school budgets, said Monday that she was savoring the passage of the bill — but that it was important not to overlook the impact the years of underfunding have had on the school system.
“I know there’s a significant amount of relief from a lot of folks because it looks like this may be the first year…since 2010 that we’ll have a constitutional level of funding,” Ousley said. “When you have that sort of critical neglect of a system, no matter how excellent it is, you’re going to feel the weight of that, and there will be consequences from it. So I think it’s really a phenomenal moment to think about.”
Ousley noted that students who started attending public schools in 2010 have never attended class in a constitutionally funded system. Students who started kindergarten in 2010 are in eighth grade this year.
Fulton said that, while the district welcomed the significant new funding it will receive next year, it is currently working through a number of budget challenges that won’t be fixed overnight.
The district this year has had to find ways to fill the hole left by a reduction of $1.1 million in funding it receives through the federal Title I program, and is facing increased overhead costs related to health insurance, utilities, transportation and supplies that will total millions of dollars. Some of the new funding the district will be receiving will be allocated to patching holes left by increasing costs and previous shortfalls.
“Next year, the funding increase that we see, that we’re going to realize, comes on the heels of a long period of inadequate funding,” Fulton said. “Not just in Shawnee Mission, but really across the state of Kansas.”
This year’s general fund budget for Shawnee Mission is $235,032,095. The $9.8 million in expected new funding next year would represent an annual general fund revenue increase of about 4.2 percent. Money in the general fund can be used unrestricted for the following purposes:
- Salary and benefits (which make up 83% of general fund spending in the current school year budget).
- Student transportation (which makes up 6%)
- Supplies and services (which make up 6%)
- Utilities (which make up 4%)
Fulton said the administration would present more details about financial planning for the 2019-2020 school year at its April 22 meeting.
Every member of the Shawnee Mission area delegation to the House except for Rep. Charlotte Esau voted in favor of the bill signed by Kelly. In the Senate, the bill was supported by every member of the Shawnee Mission area delegation except for Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook.