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Education official discusses school funding at forum

By Bryan Richardson

Everything is not what it appears to be when it comes to school funding, Dale Dennis, Kansas State Department of Education deputy commissioner of education, asserted Tuesday.

Dennis spoke about the school finance formula proposals by Gov. Sam Brownback and the Democrats during a presentation sponsored by the League of Women Voters.

He characterized part of the base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) figure as essentially “smoke and mirrors.” For the 2005-06 school year, the BSAPP increased from $3,863 to $4,257. However, Dennis said approximately $244 of the increase was offset by lowering the enrollment weighting, which resulted in no increased spending authority.

He said a more accurate BSAPP figure of $3,536 is actually lower than the BSAPP of $3,600 during the 1992-93 school year.

That is similar to would happen if Brownback’s plan is approved by the legislature. The BSAPP would increase to $4,492, the statutory amount, but many districts would actually receive less money from FTE payments due to the removal of weighted enrollment. USD 383 is not one of those districts.

Dennis also discussed BSAPP in relation to the consumer price index. He said $3,600 in 1992 would be the same as $5,809.80 in 2011. “If (USD 383 Supt. Bob) Shannon had $5,809, he’d think he died and gone to heaven,” Dennis said.

Dennis said the number touted for total spending is around $12,000 per child, but that includes every dollar spent on education.

“What you want to talk about is the operating cost of educating children,” he said. Dennis said the more appropriate number is $8,724 per student, which includes general fund money, special education, transportation, career and technical education and the local option budget.

Under the Brownback plan, which would take effect for the 2013-14 school year, USD 383 wouldn’t receive any additional money. Dennis said this is a common situation for similar districts. “The larger school districts do not do well under the governor’s equity plan,” he said.

There was also discussion about the potential harm that elimination of weightings could have. Craig Neuenswander, KSDE director of school finance, said some kindergartens come in ready to read, but others might not. “You’re going to be given the same money to educate both kids,” he said.

USD 383 is in the midst of enrollment growth including a high number of kindergarten students. In the 2010-11 school year, the district had a record 553 kindergarten students.

Dennis said the Democrats’ plan would keep the current formula as is. The plan involves adding $45 million into education finance the next two school years and 50 percent of the state general fund increase after that until the statutory amount of $4,492 is reached.

Under this proposal, everybody would get increases. USD 383’s funding would increase $525,796 for the 2012-13 and the 2013-14 school years; $1,051,593 would be the increase for the 2014-15 school year.









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