Long-term trends regarding school funding are improving in Kansas, but it’s important that the Kansas Legislature keep the promises it has made in recent years in light of the Gannon court decision.
“We are still well below 2009 levels adjusted for inflation, particularly on a per-pupil basis,” said Mark Tallman, Vice President for Advocacy with the Kansas Association of School Boards. “We’ve had an increase in enrollment. I think it’s one thing to understand that even though schools have received significant increases in funding. It’s really significant compared to the fact that we had about an eight-year period of either being cut or falling behind inflation for that period of time.”
It’s important to note that a lack of funding growth was not a problem before that.
“Until 2009, most years, school funding in Kansas went up at least at the rate of inflation or more,” said Tallman. “Whether you go back to 1990 or, we’ve got pretty good numbers that would go back even to the 1970s, typically, school funding would go up a percent or two more than inflation.”
The obvious question is what did Kansas get for that money?
“You go back to 1990 as a baseline, adult Kansans, meaning 25 and older, we went from about 80% graduating high school to 91%,” said Tallman. “We went from under 50% having any kind of post-secondary education to about two-thirds and we went from about 20% having a four-year degree to almost 34%.”
Tallman notes that it is hard to look at school funding from a short-term lens, because the length of a person’s educational career stretches over more than a decade in K-12 and close to two decades if you include college and graduate school.