Andy Marse, writing for the Topeka Capital Journal, reports that initial reactions to the large tax cuts signed into law by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback last Tuesday were subject to widespread confusion over the amount of deficits the bill was projected to cause.
Dale Dennis, the state’s deputy commissioner of education, looked at the effects of $1 billion in cuts to school aid given that the new tax cuts will result in the state gathering $2-3 billion less than spending projections for the next five years. However, when Auburn Washburn Unified School District 437 district spokesman Martin Weishaar reported on the effects of cuts to his district, he wrongly assumed that the $2 billion loss was in a single year.
The governor’s former chief of staff, David Kensigner, recently corrected this misconception and clarified that the $2-3 billion deficit was cumulative over five years. On hearing this, Weishaar corrected his figure to 40 teachers from an expected loss of 205.
“I would say it would just be one-fifth of that (many teachers’ salaries),” he said. “However that amount is certainly still significant.”
Weishaar did stress that the teacher salaries was just one way of looking at the figure, and if cuts are forced on his district they will look at alternatives to releasing teachers and instead explore cuts in other spending areas. Although, this may not be possible as a cut in state aid would be very difficult for the district to absorb, especially as an increase in local property taxes isn’t considered viable.
“I think the consideration is that schools are already funded (by the state) at the level they were, I think, in 1999 and to go back even further just adds to the problem,” he said.
Topeka USD 501 was another district confused by Dennis’ initial report. Superintendent Julie Ford said initial projections of $29.2 million in cuts would result in the loss of 300 teachers. Learning that the cuts would occur over five years instead of one did little to assuage her anger and fear.
“We have already cut around 100 teachers the last three years,” she said. “We are going to lose a generation of teachers as they choose other professions because of the climate of no support for public education.”