Sunday, August 12, 2018

Kansas school funding trailed nation and region since Great Recession

Total per pupil funding for Kansas public schools trailed the U.S. average, every state in the Plains region and bordering states except Oklahoma between 2008 and 2016.

When adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars, the U.S. average per pupil funding from all sources increased $343, or 2.5 percent from 2008 to 2016 (the most recent available data). Kansas per pupil funding declined $638, or 4.9 percent, over that period, meaning Kansas fell almost $1,000 behind the U.S. average.

This data does not include Kansas funding in 2017, the second year of school funding under the block grant system which essentially froze state aid, or the increased funding provided by the Legislature last year and for the current year, 2018 and 2019.

Among the Plains States region (Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas and Minnesota) and other Kansas neighbors Colorado and Oklahoma, five states increased funding more than the national average. Four, including Kansas, trailed the national average.

Only Kansas, South Dakota and Oklahoma had a decline in per pupil funding when adjusted for inflation, and only Oklahoma had a larger decline than Kansas.

Total revenue per pupil includes all sources of revenue: state, federal and local, including student fees for textbooks, meals and activities. It includes expenses on capital improvement bonds and Kansas Public Employee Retirement System contributions.

With an enrollment of approximately 490,000 students, Kansas schools should have received an additional $326.6 million in 2016? to have compensate for inflation alone since 2008. To have kept up with the national average, Kansas schools would have required nearly $500 million in 2016.

The 2018 Kansas Legislature approved a plan to increase state funding by over $500 million over five years. This summer, the Kansas Supreme Court basically accepted that approach to determine constitutionally suitable funding, but conditioned approval on adjusting the amount for future inflation over the next five years.

In 2008, Kansas per pupil funding was second in the region, behind only Minnesota. By 2016, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota had also moved ahead of Kansas, and Missouri had moved from $1,357 below Kansas in 2016 dollars to just $124 below Kansas.

There are three critical issues raised by these funding trends.

First, lagging per pupil support explains why Kansas has also lost ground to other states and the national average in teacher salaries, as noted this blog post.

Second, Kansas school funding falling behind inflation and other states puts in context  the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling that school finance is not constitutionally adequate. One of the Rose standards adopted by the court as a benchmark for adequate funding is allow Kansas students to complete in academics and employment with students in surrounding states. The Kansas Legislature has also adopted that standard as an educational goal.

Third, it shows that surrounding states with similar economic and population issues have been able to provide either higher funding per pupil or a greater rate of increase, or both, than Kansas.

This data is from U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances for 2008 and 2016. 2008 per pupil funding has been increased by 12 percent for inflation, based on change in the consumer price index.

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