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Steep Tax Cuts Endanger School Funding, in Kansas and Elsewhere

February 17, 2016 at 4:45 PM

Our recent report on state K-12 funding explained that four of the five states with the biggest drop in per-pupil funding since 2008 — Arizona, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin — also cut income taxes.  We can now add Kansas to that list (see graph).

As we’ve noted, the massive tax cuts Kansas enacted in 2012 and 2013 are a major reason why Kansas lacks the resources to equitably and adequately fund its schools.

Our report omitted Kansas from our analysis of state general or “formula” funding — the main form of state aid to schools — because it replaced its funding formula with a block grant last year. 

But, by adding up the budget line items that best approximate the old formula funding method, we’ve since been able to make a valid comparison.  It shows that Kansas general funding per student has already fallen by 13 percent since 2008, after adjusting for inflation.  

The block grant funding level enacted for the next school year would leave per-student funding 15.7 percent below the 2008 level.

Drastic cuts like those in Kansas can force schools to increase class sizes, make do with less-qualified teachers, shorten the school year, or otherwise provide fewer resources for kids, impeding efforts to create a better-educated future workforce.

The Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled that the current block grant funding scheme is unconstitutional because it provides insufficient funding to poor school districts.  Kansas must adopt a system of equitable financing by June 30, the court ruled.