Public schools in Kansas get less state aid now than they did in 1992 if inflation is added to the equation, according to Dale Dennis, the Kansas Deputy Commissioner of Education.
Dennis was one of three panelists on education the MainStream Coalition brought to Colonial Church Thursday night. Dennis was joined by Dr. Tim Caboni, vice chancellor of public affairs for the University of Kansas and Karen Wagner, a parent advocate and K-12 public education activist, and moderator Nick Haines of KCPT.
Dennis rolled out a lengthy list of statistics to show that the base state aid per pupil in Kansas is not only below the statutory requirement, but has been dropping in recent years. If aid had been adjusted for inflation since 1992, it would be more than $6,000 per pupil, not the $3,838 where it stands today.
“The formula is not the issue,” Dennis said. “It is the adequacy of being able to meet the needs of kids.” Dennis also lamented the recent state tax cuts, offering data to show that the state is now spending more money than it is taking in.
Caboni told the audience that all Kansas universities took a cut in state funding, but it the cuts to the KU medical school have been disproportionately high. Those cuts occurred even though Kansas has a doctor shortage and will lose 30 percent of its current physicians in the next decade, he said.
It is a national conversation, Caboni said, about how much state support universities will get. “We need to decide how much we expect families to pay.” More than 70 percent of college graduates get their degrees from public universities, he said, and universities drive economic development. “It is important that our poor families have a chance,” Dennis added. “Every child in Kansas should have a chance for a good education and a chance to go to college.”
Wagner said the focus in the legislature has become not on what is best for students, but more on the “budget problem.” She pointed out several bills, including those on charter schools and vouchers, that she said will be detrimental to public schools.