The Harbinger Online

Breaking the Bank

No school next year.

For many, this situation appears funny and potentially exciting. But this isn’t a joke. If Governor Sam Brownback doesn’t change the current school funding system by June 30, then the Supreme Court with close all public schools for next year. In the state of Kansas there are 489,043 students enrolled in public schools – nearly half a million students who wouldn’t have an education next year.

This is the consequence of the block funding system that Brownback put in place across all of Kansas last year as a way to make up for the money Kansas lost when they cut the income tax in 2011. He ended up cutting $50 million from education in Kansas to help fund the state. This cut has caused underfunding in schools in lower income areas, and allows for inequities in the amount of state aid given to public schools. Because of this, the Supreme Court ruled the block funding unconstitutional. Block funding is a lump sum funding system that which cheaper, doesn’t take into consideration that some schools might require more money than others

Since we are in a wealthier area, SMSD gets more money now than they did last year, due to the current block funding. We are one of the only districts to benefit from the new system which might explain why our superintendent was one of only three educators in Kansas to support it. But we have to think beyond our own 27,695 students. We have to consider the entire state. Block funding does not provide additional money to lower income districts to compensate for the inequities, causing some schools to cut additional programs like art clubs, as they couldn’t afford them.

Before last year, there a was a more complex formula in place that regulated education funding. This formula meant that schools could get the money to provide their school with additional needs, such as Spanish-speaking teachers. Through this system, SMSD didn’t get as much money as it does now because it took into account that schools in different areas have different needs. School districts were provided with money based on their uses for it. As we are in a more affluent district, the government gave us less money as our needs aren’t as great as many other districts in Kansas. However, this is no longer the way state funding works.   

Our governor has been compromising our public education, whether it’s through increasing class sizes or trying to cut the art programs and now cutting $50 million from Kansas public education. Because of this, students across the state are losing opportunities for additional one-on-one education and chances to explore different subjects.

Block funding is unfair on public schools, especially those that are in low income districts.The education, and the future, of half a million students should not have to suffer from the poor politics of detached legislators.

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