McPherson Superintendent Randy Watson discussed with the Board of Education Monday recent news regarding school funding.
Schools in Kansas are one step closer to receiving additional education dollars after a three-judge panel ruled Friday the state must increase education funding to comply with Kansas law. If this ruling withstands a recent filing for appeals, this would result in more than $1.5 million in state aid for USD 418, Watson said.
“We’ve had to go through a lot of budget cuts in McPherson, and it’s at least gratifying to know that the three-judge panel acknowledges that these cuts occurred, and they should be restored,” Watson said.
Last year was the first time in several years the district has given raises to teachers. This kind of continuing trend could hurt Kansas’ changes of recruiting quality teachers, Watson said.
“We hope we can get back to the level of funding we were at before the recession, now that the economy looks like it’s coming back,” he said. “Even though we were in lean times, we’re not in lean times now. We’re making other choices about how to spend that money.”
For the case, proponents for increased aid said the current level was unconstitutional and did not match a previous level set by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2006. This, they said, resulted in an erosion in student achievement, according to the Associated Press.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Until then, Watson said he anticipates a number of things happening, including writing a new finance law, changing the way the courts are structured, or removing the part of the constitution that says the state is required to fund education.
If Friday’s ruling stands, base state aid per pupil would rise from $3,783 to $4,492, which is based on studies of education costs 10 years ago. McPherson’s current funding level is $3,838 per pupil.
“It will be interesting to see how this politically plays out,” Watson said.
Representative Clark Shultz said these recent movements in Topeka will cause the legislature to discuss what amount is proper for education funding, and with that, the proper role of the legislature compared to the court system.
“I think there will be dual conversations taking place — how much money should we add to education, and …the legislature’s responsibility to decide how much money goes in the budget of education as opposed to the courts.”
Shultz said in the past, education has not received adequate funding.
“Because of the recession, we fell behind on education funding,” he said. “I think as the economy improves, that’s where you can look at trying to restore some of that funding. It’s difficult to do while revenue has just now begun coming back. It’s been very difficult the last few years.”