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Districts don't predict Gannon windfall

Staff writer

Although a Supreme Court ruling affirmed that Kansas must provide more money for public education, local school officials aren’t sure the money will make as large an impact as they thought.

Susan Beeson, superintendent of Centre Schools, said the additional money is based on enrollment numbers and rural schools are losing students.

“We’re in a truly rural, farming district where enrollment might decline,” Beeson said. “We certainly have some challenges in terms of how that equates to our district. Small schools are kind of in this boat together. We’re all experiencing declining enrollment.”

Peabody superintendent Ron Traxson said schools began getting additional funding last year, and the state will increase the amount over four years.

The increased payments are the base state aid for students, he said. He noted, as Beeson did, that state aid is based on enrollment.

“For districts like us that are fluctuating a bit, we’re at a standstill,” Traxson said. “If we get an increase in enrollment, it negates that if we lose students.”

Beeson said her preliminary estimate is that the district will get about $89,000 more in state aid this year.

The district will use the money to increase professional development for staff and programming for students.

Marion and Hillsboro schools are likely to see a bigger funding boost because they have more students, Beeson said.

Marion superintendent Aaron Homburg estimated the district would see a boost of about $200,000 this year with the state paying $4,436 per pupil. It will pay $4,569 next year, $4,706 in 2021-2022, and $4,846 in 2022-2023.

Beeson said the five-year funding formula allows schools to predict state funding and plan accordingly.

The state’s funding formula is complex, with funding for local students different from funding for online students, Beeson said. Centre has an online program open to adults statewide. The district’s online program continues to expand, but the recent ruling doesn’t affect state funding for online programs, she said.

The Gannon case mirrors an earlier lawsuit that forced the state to increase funding to its schools, Traxson said.

In that case, Montoy v. Kansas, the state had to increase funding for programs for students with disabilities, from low-income families, or learning English as a second language.

When a recession hit in 2009, the state cut school funding by hundreds of millions of dollars and the Gannon lawsuit was filed.

“With the Montoy case, there should have never been a Gannon,” Traxson said. “But the legislature stopped funding. It really hit a standstill over the last 10 or 12 years.”

Traxson said overall costs of maintaining any business have increased over the last 15 years.

“How much have services gone up in the last 15 years? Magnify that over a school district,” he said.

Homburg said the district would use the funding increase to restore some positions eliminated in 2009, increase staff salaries, and buy curriculum and supplies for students.

“Basically we’re back to similar funding levels as 2009.” he said. “It’s going to help us with budgeting for different things.”

Last modified Aug. 14, 2019

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