Brownback Plans to Cut Ed Funding to Meet Budget Shortfall

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Kansas Governor Sam Brownback is planning to cut almost $45 million in funding from public schools and higher education in the state.

A budget fix bill was passed by the House this week. However, after revenue expectations were missed by the state last month the bill could still fall short of fixing the budget shortfall by $800,000.  The governor then proposed a new round of automatic cuts, called allotments.

Funding for universities in the state will be cut by 2% and funding for public K-12 education by 1.5% making a total savings of $44.5 million.  The cuts are set to go into effect on March 7.

For Wichita Public Schools, this means cuts of $3 million to the current school year budget.

Brownback said he would reduce aid to public schools by $28 million, which would bring basic state aid to around $42 per student.  The reduction comes after lawmakers increased aid to low-income districts last year in order to comply with a Kansas Supreme Court ruling based on a 2010 lawsuit filed by parents and school districts.  The remainder of the cuts would come from higher education, writes John Hanna for The Washington Times.

Andy Schlapp, a lobbyist for Wichita State University, said the school will lose around $1.5 million.  “It’s a setback, but not the end of the world,” Schlapp said.

He went on to say the school will continue to move forward with its plans to create an innovative campus that connects its students to the technology sector.

“We understand the difficulties of the budget. We took a cut today. We get it. It’s unfortunate,” Schlapp said. “But we’re more than ever committed to that process, the innovation campus, growing the Kansas economy and having a work force that can compete globally, so we’re going to continue on that path.”

Even after the budget cuts, Brownback said higher education in the state would still receive $20 million more in funding this year than they did last year and that funding for public education would be $177 million higher.  This is mostly due to the Supreme Court ruling that required the state to put additional funding into its schools.

The spending cuts would erase a $344 million deficit projected for June 30 in the state.  Lawmakers would need to approve a fix for the current budget by February 13 in order to make sure all the bills for the state are paid on time through the summer.

This would also buy extra time in order to consider suggestions for how to deal with a projected shortfall of roughly $600 million for the state budget in the next fiscal year beginning July 1.  Current propositions include slowing future income tax cuts and increasing alcohol and tobacco taxes.