Archive for Thursday, February 5, 2004

By the Numbers

Governor’s plan net gain for district

February 5, 2004

The state of education in Kansas is on a perilous precipice. In her State of the State Address last month, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius told legislators action was needed to maintain our excellent educational system. As a direct result of Kansas District Court Judge Terry Bullock's preliminary ruling that the current finance formula was unconstitutional, the governor has put forth a bold plan of action.
What does that plan mean for De Soto USD 232?
A healthy increase in the base state aid per pupil is needed to get school district funding up to a level comparable with the rate of inflation over the past 10 years. The governor's recommendation of $100 on the base is a start but woefully short of what is needed to bring the funding up to a level that overcomes the underfinancing of the last 10 years.
The De Soto School District is working tirelessly to help all students achieve to their fullest potential. This is a much more daunting task for those students who are at-risk or who don't speak English as their first language. Gov. Sebelius is recommending some healthy increases in the percentage of additional dollars that would be targeted for programs to help these students, but all students will benefit from these funds.
Currently, correlation weighting is provided to any school district that has an enrollment equal to or above 1,725 students. Under the governor's proposal, that number would be decreased to 1,700. This has the effect of raising the multiplier and would result in an approximate increase of $34 per student. Once again, this would be a benefit for our students.
The next two items create some concern. The provision for providing additional funding for all-day kindergarten is positive from an educational standpoint. Children do benefit from extended learning experiences. However, our district would be hard pressed to comply with this given our rapid growth and near capacity buildings. We don't have the space to accommodate this feature of the plan, and the additional funding proposed would not be adequate to overcome this shortage of space.
The final issue of great concern is moving special education funding to the general fund.
School districts currently receive financial assistance for special education based on the number of staff needed to provide services for students with special needs. The governor's proposal would move this money to the general fund and would be calculated on a per-pupil basis.
The district would lose about $70,000 the first year under this formula. Future years may see additional decreases, and the issue of special education would be blended into the general fund and may not get the attention needed to achieve the goal of fully funding the excess cost of these programs.
In closing, I would encourage every legislator to rise to the level of statesman and stateswoman in order to provide a plan for maintaining the strong educational programs in Kansas.
The school children don't care whether there is an "R" or a "D" after some elected official's title. They deserve the best bipartisan effort that we adults can provide for them. It is my hope that we can save the education system from hurling down that perilous precipice and bring it back on solid ground.
Our children deserve no less, and the future of this state demands it.

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