MESSAGE FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT, MR. BILL CLARK

The 2020‐2021 school year has come to an end as the 49th class of seniors have graduated from Mission Valley High School.  It is always interesting to look back and see how the school has changed over the years from open classrooms and gravel roads to what we have today.  The question always remains though…..what will we need for the future?  What will education be like in 13 years when the incoming Kindergarten class of Fall 2021 graduates in the Spring of 2034?

Planning for the near future is challenging enough….trying to plan for education 13 years from now is even more challenging.  Although technology will advance, systems of how to deliver education will change but will children really change?   Children will always need the love and support from adult       caregivers, they will always need to be taught “how to be a good person”, they will always need our protection and guidance.  To provide the level of    education needed there is also the need for appropriate financial support from the state and federal governments.

The Kansas Legislature approved funding for the final two years of Gannon school finance plan which will boost general operating budgets by over $900 million over six years. These funds will be used to restore positions, programs and salaries eroded when funding fell behind inflation from 2009 to 2017, address lagging academic success, and help students recover from the COVID pandemic. Even with these increases, K‐12 funding is still not increasing as fast as the total income of Kansans.

Prior to 2010, Kansas school funding usually increased more than the rate of inflation every year. The largest spending increases were for staff and facilities to help improve student success, such as expanding all‐day kindergarten and preschool, special education services, extra help for at‐risk students, more counselors and social workers, and educational technology.

As funding increased, long‐term educational ttainment also rose. Since 1990, adult Kansans graduating high school increased from 81 to 92 percent, completing any postsecondary education from 48 to 65 percent and completing a four‐year degree or more from 21 to 34 percent. Despite this progress, in the 2005 Montoy school finance decision, the Kansas Supreme Court held that school funding was not constitutionally suitable due to large achievement disparities among students based on income, race, English‐speaking status and disability.

In response, the Legislature directed its Post Audit division to conduct an education cost study. It concluded that additional funding was strongly correlated with higher achievement and recommended additional funding to bring lower performing student groups to higher standards. Although the Legislature did not fully fund those recommendations, the Supreme Court approved a plan that phased‐in about $1 billion additional funding between 2005 and 2009.

However, following the Great Recession of 2008‐09, the Legislature did not maintain funding at court approved levels. Inflation‐adjusted total funding declined by almost $400 million from 2009 to 2017 and general operating budgets fell over $500 million. As funding declined, school districts cut almost 2,000 positions, reduced programs and fell behind other states in teacher salaries. Within a few years, Kansas test scores and other indicators began to decline, and the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in the Gannon case that funding was again unconstitutional.

The Gannon plan is a series of annual increases in base state aid per pupil, which increases general state aid, plus increased local option budget funding, and increased special education aid. These funds are estimated to increase $930 million in actual dollars from 2017 to 2023. However, when adjusted to 2020 dollars, this increase drops to $378 million,  in 2023 the total is projected to still be about $200 million below 2009 levels, partly because inflation is projected to increase more than previously expected.

Total school funding, which includes the amount above plus all other funding (capital costs, federal aid, KPERS pension contributions and fees) is projected to increase by $1.9 billion in actual dollars between 2017 and 2023, but when adjusted 2020 dollars, the increase drops to $1.1 billion.

Although total school funding has been rising more than inflation since 2018, it is not rising faster than the income of Kansans. Kansas personal income is the total income of all state residents from all sources. Total school district expenditures increased gradually from about 4.5 percent of personal income in 1990 to just over 5.0 percent in 2009, then declined to 4.3 percent in 2020.

In closing, school funding will remain a critical issue to schools in Kansas.    Appropriate school funding allows schools to be able to provide the best   resources to all students to promote their success, it allows districts to pay teachers and staff wages that will keep them in the education profession, and it allows districts to make long term plans for the future for not only this year’s Kindergarten class who will be graduating in 2034 but for all graduating classes into the future.  We educate those students who are in school now, but we must plan and prepare for all students that we are going to educate in 2 the future.

Have a GREAT summer break and we look forward to seeing everyone for the 2021‐2022 school year

William J. Clark, Superintendent/Director of Special Services