Republican Gov. Sam Brownback announced his plan to decrease education spending by millions last Thursday. This proposal seeks to take 1.5 percent, or $28 million, from elementary and secondary education schools, and more than $16 million or approximately 2 percent from schools of higher education.
K-State is looking at a reduction of $3.4 million in state funding, according to an announcement by K-State Communications and Marketing on Thursday.
The governor’s office is quick to remind the public that fiscal year 2015 funding for higher education is still $20 million above FY 2014 funding and $177 million higher for K-12 funding, according to a statement released from the office of the governor.
Unfortunately, neither the governor nor his office is accounting for what educators will need to do in the wake of this announcement.
Educators are likely scrambling to make up for the lost dollars they were expecting in their budget. President Kirk Schulz is now looking at how funds can be reduced at K-State. This Friday, the University Budget Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet to work on recommendations to figure out how this can be done.
Within some legal mumbo jumbo in Brownback’s statement, it looks like he is trying to reallocate the 1.5 percent allotment, which must be the money taken away from K-12 education; however, the governor has not explicitly said K-12 education.
In his statement he is “calling on legislature to reform equalization factors in the current school finance formula” to stall $54 million that was not originally appropriated by the Kansas Legislature in the 2015 FY budget bill.
“Friends, it is time for a new school finance formula,” Brownback said in his State of the State address last month. “Now that formula should reflect real-world costs, dollars in the classroom – and not dollars in the classroom met with bureaucracy or gimmicks. It should be about improving student achievement and school accountability, and not bureaucratic games.”
I question the legitimacy of this new formula Brownback insisted on and spent a great deal of time talking about in his State of the State address. This new formula idea is not in use now, especially if he expects the Legislature to reform the current school finance formula. Key word being, current.
Brownback’s office has the audacity to cite the purchase of a $48,000 grand piano in their statement, claiming that its purchase is “symptomatic of the inherent flaws in the current formula.” The statement continued, “That money could and should have been used to hire another teacher to reduce class sizes and help improve academic achievement.”
Summer Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kansas is the school that purchased the piano. The money for this piano came out of the school district’s capital outlay fund that, by law, could not have been used to hire teachers; according to a Feb. 5 Kansas City Star article, “Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax cuts, not a piano purchase, are to blame for Kansas budget woes.”
Does Brownback expect a school to hire a teacher for just one year and increase academic achievement for one year only? No, that is absurd and a blatant waste of money. A new piano, though, is not a waste of money. The new piano was needed and funds were available for it. We are looking at years of providing music to students versus one year of an additional teacher.
Overall, this reduction is causing more trouble than it is worth. With Brownback’s office stating information that is not correct and educators scrambling to fill holes in their budget they were not excepting, Brownback should have chosen another area within the budget to make reductions.
Jena Ernsting is a freshman in agricultural communications and journalism.