More students and less money: KCK schools face tough budget crun - KCTV5

More students and less money: KCK schools face tough budget crunch

Posted: Updated:
Kansas City, KS Public Schools leaders have spent the last two years wondering how to make more happen for their students with less money under the block grant funding formula okayed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. (KCTV5) Kansas City, KS Public Schools leaders have spent the last two years wondering how to make more happen for their students with less money under the block grant funding formula okayed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. (KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, KS (KCTV) -

Kansas City, KS Public Schools leaders have spent the last two years wondering how to make more happen for their students with less money under the block grant funding formula okayed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

Although the 2015 legislative decision will sunset at the end of this fiscal year, USD 500 says it could see lasting effects in the classroom from a funding strategy that was ruled both inadequate and inequitable by the state’s highest court in March of this year.

The issue of funding goes back further than that. During the recession, in 2009, schools experienced a cut in funding.

When Senate Bill 7 passed more than two years ago, Brownback said the state was poised to “build on past success.” Education advocates disagree.

“I’m not aware of many districts that it did not hurt,” said Patricia Hodison, president of the Kansas City, KS NEA.

The NEA in the area has been a vocal critic of the block grant funding system. But they aren’t alone.

“All of this has made it incredibly difficult to try to balance the money we have with all of what we want to do for our students,” said David Smith.

Smith, who works in the Kansas City, KS School District saw firsthand how the stagnant funding under the block grant system impacted students in the classroom.

He said the 2015 legislations, “essentially froze funding for schools when costs continued to grow.” And for a growing district like USD 500, that frozen funding meant some strategic planning.

Data from the Kansas Department of Education shows Kansas City, KS Public Schools had nearly 20,000 students in the district the year preceding the new funding formula. That year, the district had $15,388 to educate each student.

Over the past three years, the classroom doors in USD 500 saw an additional 500 students come through. This school year, 2016-2017, the district’s funding for each one was $400 less.

“We continue to have more students with more needs,” Smith said sitting on a bench outside the Old Supreme Courtroom at the Statehouse earlier this year. “And we continue to raise our expectations for kids.”

Each district, each school, even individual classroom across the state have unique challenges that require support. That support looks like technology and staffing for Kansas children to be successful.

To do that, districts across the state went to battle with their budgets. Across the board cuts changed the make-up of schools.

“Districts had to cut employees,” Hodison said about the fallout from the funding change. “They’ve had to reduce the extracurricular activities, some of the curriculum, larger class sizes. Some even just cut days off of their school year.”

In KCK alone, the average class size has grown to 30 students per teacher.

Hodison acknowledges there are some districts that were impacted more than others all while recognizing across the state there were issues.

Smith says his schools were part of the heavily impacted group.

USD 500 sees a majority of its student population approved for free-or-reduced lunch and it also sees students with unique needs.

According to Smith, the district has identified 68 separate languages heard by their students at home.

“A student who is an English language learner ... is going to cost more to educate because they have to learn English and learn everything else in a second language,” Smith said.

The district, according to Smith, is focused on helping those students and evidence of that effort can be seen at McKinley Elementary School.

Signs for the library, nurses’ office, bathroom and front office show English, Spanish and several Southeast Asian languages including Korean, Burmese and Chin.

The district, according to Smith, can’t fund specialized staff for these students because the money in the budget isn’t there.

“You’ll see a lot of diverse students, students that are refugees in KCK,” Hodison said. “Students that have just come to the country within a few months or a few years.”

Coupled with that, district leaders also see the challenges their students face when living in poverty.

And for Smith, schooling is an integral part of getting kids out of poverty.

“We think our kids, because of the circumstances they come from, are the ones that most depend on the quality of their education for their future life prospect,” he said in late March.

But there is no looking back now.

With this funding formula ending, the Republican-led legislature is looking for a way to fund schools in an adequate and equitable way. A goal made even more pertinent after a Kansas Supreme Court decision that said the state’s main responsibility.

According to the decision, the state has until June 30 of this year to come up with a formula that meets the requirements handed down in Gannon vs. The State of Kansas.  

KCTV5 News reached out Brownback's office. 

Melika Willoughby, communications director for the governor, sent back a statement which outlined Brownback's goals for funding Kansas schools. 

"The purpose of the temporary block grant was to provide stable funding to our schools as the Governor, legislature, and educators worked to build a new permanent school funding system that puts students first," the statement read. "Many districts are now receiving more money under the block grant system than they would have received under the old formula due to declining enrollment." 

The Kansas Supreme Court has asked the legislature to improve student outcomes for the bottom 25%, and the Governor believes all options should be considered to ensure we do so successfully.

Copyright 2017 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly
KCTV 5 News

Online Public File:
KCTV  KSMO

Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, KCTV; Kansas City, MO. (A Meredith Corporation Station) . All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.