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Noble slams block grant cuts for education

News editor

Governor Sam Brownback signed a new funding bill for education last week, saying the new block grant system funds education at historic high levels.

USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble said, however, that the money that actually comes to the district to educate students got slashed, and the district will feel the cuts now and for the next two years.

“We are receiving more total funding in 2014-15 than we received in 2013-14,” Noble said. “But it depends on where you start your calculations.”

Per pupil state aid, which goes directly educational programming, was $4,400 in 2009, Noble said. The state has gradually eroded that number as it has ignored Kansas Supreme Court rulings to equalize aid across districts, and the block grant locks in per pupil state aid at $3,852 for this and two subsequent years.

Also gone is funding the state legally promised to support an increase in the local option budget approved by district voters last year, Noble said, and a portion of capital outlay funds.

“We will not receive the LOB, and capital outlay was reduced by $50,000,” Noble said.

The extra money going to education in the block grant plan includes increases in funding to the state retirement system for educators. That makes it appear there’s more money, Noble said, but that money can’t be used by districts, and when it is subtracted from the total, district will have less to work with.

That means using reserve funds, which will drop below $250,000 this year, and increasing local taxes to offset the shortfall.

“The governor and other proponents claim this increases school funding, and they claim it is a simpler formula,” Noble said. The truth is more simple than that. The truth is that the state is broke because of a self-imposed budget crisis. 330,000 Kansas businesses and sole proprietorships aren’t paying income taxes, which shifts the burden.”

The block grant will be the same amount of money for the next two years, and Noble said normal increases in the cost of doing business will cut into the budget even more.

“It doesn’t account for things you can’t control, such as more students, more at-risk students,, more students requiring transportation, students that prepare for career readiness through vocational education that costs more to implement, and other factors,” Noble said.

It also doesn’t allow adjustments for increases in personnel costs or health insurance costs, he said.

“We’ve cut 10 percent of discretionary spending — it’s everything except people and utilities,” Noble said. “We are looking at reducing the number of people it takes to operate our schools and extracurricular activities. It will not result in the elimination of a program — we’re simply going to get leaner.”

Noble emphasized that no regular district positions are being considered for cuts, but supplemental assignments that work with sports and clubs will likely be scaled back.

“Nobody will lose a job,” Noble said.

The cuts are effective in the current budget year which ends June 30.

Last modified April 2, 2015

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