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More money to classrooms? Depends on who you ask

Governor Brownback praised Senate Sub. For House Bill 2506 for “putting more money into classrooms.” Brownback’s allies even aired television commercials to that effect. The bill has gotten much public attention for revoking due process rights for K-12 public school teachers, but little attention has been given to the funding aspects of this so-called appropriations bill.

Does it deliver more money to classrooms? That depends on who you ask.

HB 2506 does include an additional $109 million for local option budget (LOB) equalization aid, as per the directive from the state Supreme Court. However, it also cuts funding from several other areas and reworks the funding formula in ways that practically guarantee a net loss of funding for a majority of school districts.

The new law eliminates the School Facilities Weighting. This money supplemented the budgets of districts with new construction projects, but now it’s gone.

The new law eliminates the Nonproficient Pupil Weighting. This money provided additional resources to meet the needs of students who struggle academically. Now, it’s gone – taking money from those students most in need.

The new law changes the definition of “At-risk Pupil”, reducing the number of students defined as at-risk. Again, funding targeted specifically at those most in need is now gone.

Though the directive of the Supreme Court was to fix wealth-based inequities in school funding, the new law expands such inequities by increasing the calculation base state aid per pupil by $57, and by allowing districts to increase their LOB to 33%.

Curiously, the law also eliminates virtual school state funding from the amount used to calculate LOB. The rationale is unclear, though it appears it could be a directed attack on specific school districts or a rigging of the system in favor of for-profit virtual schools such as K-12, Inc.

Finally, the law decreases the statutory base state aid per pupil from $4,492 to $3,838 – a cut of over $650.

If you’re wondering whether or not this new law puts more money into classrooms, don’t ask Sam Brownback. Ask somebody with integrity.