Kansas Schools Closing Early, Blame Governor’s Budget Cuts

Justin Streight

Kansas will be closing a few schools early this year after the governor made drastic cuts to taxes and public services. Parents might not be happy about the situation, but children are celebrating the budget shortfall.

According to the Huffington Post, two school districts are closing early. Concordia Unified School District will shut down six days early on May 15 and the Twin Valley Unified School District will close 12 days early on May 8.

Although Kansas’ educational budgeting is complicated, the Twin Valley school board cited “the present mid-year, unplanned financial cuts recently signed into law” as the culprit for the budget shortfall.

In March, Republican Governor Sam Brownback signed a school funding overhaul, which resulted in a combined $51 million shortfall for the two districts, according to Think Progress.

Concordia Superintendent Bev Mortimer claims students hugged her shortly after the announcement.

“They remember me as the snow day lady. We are popular with the kids but not the parents.”

Nevertheless, the governor might deserve some of the credit.

Last year, the supreme court ruled that Brownback’s educational spending was so low it violated adequacy requirements in Kansas’ constitution. Wichita Eagle reports the courts have called on the legislature to go back to the standards set in a 2008 educational finance bill that would have seen per-pupil aid rise to $4,492.

Unfortunately for students and schools, the 2008 financial crisis wreaked havoc on the state’s budget, and education become a target for fierce cuts. Per-pupil aid fell 16.5 percent or $950 between 2008 and 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Despite the recovery, the state has not moved fast enough to replenish education funding based on the Supreme Court’s ruling.

To satisfy the judges, Governor Brownback did pass a $129 million education finance bill in 2014, but many officials dismissed the legislation as an “accounting gimmick.” Officials claimed the governor simply redistributed funding from at-risk schools to other poorer schools.

According to Think Progress, many public schools were left underfunded, and much of the benefit went to corporations who then received tax breaks for donating scholarship money to private schools.

While school nurses have been putting soaked sponges in the freezer to save money on ice packs, Governor Brownback has made drastic cuts in taxes for certain businesses and wealthy individuals. The estimated costs have burned a $1 billion hole in the state’s budget.

Concordia district estimates that closing early will net the school an extra $30,000 for the year. Twin Valley did not release their estimates. Closing early comes as a relief to students, but the governor and schools are most likely feeling more pressure to figure out an equitable funding scheme.

[Image Credit: Getty Images]