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Wichita Schools trying to figure out finance changes

By Pilar Pedraza, ppedraza@kwch.com
Published On: Apr 07 2014 05:34:40 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 07 2014 06:06:01 PM CDT
(WICHITA, Kan.) -

The debate took all weekend, but many Kansas school districts still don't know exactly what impact the new school funding bill will have.

"The good news is that it's to the positive side of the ledger. It's not further reductions like we've had in the past," said Diane Gjerstad, Executive Director of Governmental Relations for the Wichita Public Schools.

The Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to increase spending to poorer districts. The final bill passed late Sunday does just that, by $129 million. But the Wichita School District says the numbers aren't all going up.

"The dollars are there, but we're going to have to offset them with some of our reductions," said Gjerstad. She spent the day Monday trying to figure out what the new school funding legislation means, precisely, for USD 259 in Wichita.

The most important big number for students in the classroom is $2,438,736. That's how much the state figures Wichita schools will benefit from an increase in local taxes, or the LOB. But that's not the final number.

"We will have some reductions to that because the Department (of Education) wasn't able to calculate the impact of some of these reductions on this column," said Gjerstad, pointing to the $2,438,746 figure on a spreadsheet prepared by the state.

Some of those reductions in the bill we know the cost of. For example, the elimination of extra funds for at risk students, those who receive free and reduced lunches, and for other students who are failing state assessments will take away from that total. When added in with the additional Base State Aid Per Pupil funds already budgeted for the coming year,$1,046,813, that's a total loss of $92,054 going to classrooms.

Other reductions remain to be figured out. Such as what the overall enrollment will be next year and the fact the school will no longer be able to count virtual education students and non-traditional students when figuring out local taxes.

In the end, the district will come out with a little bit more money, but it's still not clear how much.

The really good news from the district's perspective?

"The days of dramatic cuts are gone," said Gjerstad.

One part of the bill is for taxpayers and not the school districts. The state is kicking in more money for property tax relief when figuring the local tax, or LOB, rate. This will decrease how much local property owners pay for schools but keep the total amount schools get the same.

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