Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How has school funding changed compared to inflation and other cost indicators?

Since 2000, school funding increased somewhat more than inflation before the Supreme Court Montoy decision in 2005; increased significantly for four years as the Legislature responded to that decision which said school funding was too low; and has averaged less than inflation since the Great Recession in 2008-09.

From 2000 to 2005, total expenditures per pupil (using the full-time equivalent enrollment that does not count full-time kindergartners and district-funded preschoolers) increased an average of 2.0 percent more than inflation per year.

Looking only at general fund, special education state aid and local option budgets, spending per pupil increased just one-quarter of one percent more than inflation. (Total expenditures include building construction costs and payment of debt for construction bonds, as well as KPERS pension contributions, federal funds, food service and fees that are not included in general fund, special ed and LOB.)

From 2005 to 2009, following the Supreme Court order to increase K-12 funding after the Montoy decision, total funding increased an average of 4.5 percent per year more than inflation. General fund, special ed and LOB spending increased almost 5.0 percent more. During the period, the Legislature substantially increased funding for at-risk, bilingual and special education students, and increased local option budget authority.

From 2009 to 2016, total per pupil funding has decreased an average of 1.23 percent per year after adjusting for inflation. General fund, special ed and LOB funding decreased almost 2.0 percent more.  As a result, when adjusted for inflation to 2015 dollars, school funding is below 2009 levels, although unadjusted dollars are higher.

Follow-up: Some say because school funding is higher than inflation if you count increases in the 2000s, school districts should have enough money to operate.

School district costs are rising faster than inflation. From 2000 through 2015, the U.S. Employment Cost Index (a measure of changes of salaries and benefits for all public and private sector employees) increased an average of 0.5 percent more than inflation. From 2005 through 2015, the U.S. School Building Cost Index increased more than 2 percent more than inflation (this measure has only been available since 2005).

In addition, the needs of students have changed. There are far more low income students, who have less family support; bilingual students, who need special assistance in other languages; and students with severe physical and emotional needs, who need high cost specialized services.

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