A group of school districts that earlier this decade won a lawsuit forcing Kansas to boost spending on public education has delayed until December a decision on whether to file a new suit over the latest cuts in state aid to local districts.
Schools for Fair Funding met last week in Newton with attorneys, but decided to meet in Salina on Dec. 18 to consider whether to sue the state.
The nonprofit coalition, which represents 57 of the state’s 293 school districts, said it wanted to get more information from non-member districts that may be interested in joining the group.
The state’s per-student aid was $3,863 in the 2004-2005 school year, but a decision by the Kansas Supreme Court required the 2006 Legislature to enact a four-year funding plan that boosted the state stipend.
Per-student aid was set at $4,257 in the 2005-2006 school year and rose each year. The aid for the 2008-2009 school year was set at $4,433, but a mid-year cut reduced the per-student aid to $4,400.
Per-student funding is expected to be $4,218 for 209-2010. Schools for Fair Funding said proposed budget cuts could reduce per-student spending to $2,944 by fiscal 2012, which is below the level provided in 2005.
More than half of the state’s budget goes to public education.
The coalition, which has added 44 members since a July meeting, said Kansas school districts should get another $100 million from the state during the current school year due to enrollment increases and more low-income students, but may not get the money due to a drop in state revenue.
Gov. Mark Parkinson, who is expected to announce additional state budget cuts this week, said his decisions would not be influenced by the threat of a lawsuit.
“My immediate responsibility is to balance the 2010 budget,” Parkinson said last week. “The threat of a lawsuit from any particular recipient of funds is not affecting the decisions that we make.”
Parkinson is expected to cut fiscal 2010 spending by almost $260 million to avoid a deficit when the fiscal year ends June 30.
The governor cannot raise taxes without authority from the Legislature, which will meet in January.
“We are past the point of there being any easy decisions,” Parkinson said.
Kansas has revised the fiscal 2010 budget four times since July, with aid to public schools taking a $130 million reduction that dropped basic state aid by $215 per student.