Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Schools Stand to Lose $197M ; Across-the-Board Spending Cuts Called Scare Tactic

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Schools Stand to Lose $197M ; Across-the-Board Spending Cuts Called Scare Tactic

Article excerpt

Schools could lose another $197 million in funding for the fiscal year starting July 1 if the Legislature opts to allow across-the- board spending cuts rather than filling the state's budget deficit with new revenue.

On Tuesday, the Kansas State Department of Education prepared tallies at the request of the governor's budget director, Shawn Sullivan, showing the district-by-district effects of slicing 6.2 percent off state aid for schools.

Topeka Unified School District 501 would lose $6.13 million. Wichita USD 259 would lose $22 million and Kansas City, Kan., USD 500, $10.8 million.

Kansas City superintendent Cindy Lane said she believes the threat of cuts is a scare tactic meant to pressure lawmakers into resolving tax talks that have dragged on and turned this year into a record-long legislative session.

Lane said she is unsure how her district would absorb a $10.8 million loss, because it is too late legally to non-renew employees under contract for the 2015-16 school year.

"For me the thing that is most important is that the public needs to know this does not fix the problem," Lane said. "The problem is a revenue problem and until we're willing to address that, Kansas is going to be in a tailspin."

Lane said her district has about $8 million in reserves, including $1 million earmarked for expenditures. She described this as a small cushion for a district as large as USD 500, with 22,000 students.

"We have 3,700 employees," she said. "It costs $34 million a month to run the Kansas City Kansas Public Schools. This is big business."

Attempts to pass a tax package have stalled as lawmakers fight over how to fill a $400 million hole in Kansas' fiscal 2016 budget. The 6.2 percent across-the-board reductions are a potential scenario in case lawmakers don't reach an agreement. …

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