TOPEKA -- A group of Senate and House Democrats held a news conference at Lyman Elementary School today to discuss the negative impact on local school districts statewide and, in particular, state funding cuts to the Seaman School District, as outlined in a House Republican budget plan for Fiscal Year 2009.

"The Seaman School District and public schools across our state are facing a bad situation," said Senator Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, who represents USD 435.  "The Fiscal Year 2009 budget approved yesterday by the House Republicans will cut millions of dollars in state funding from public schools and, for example, $357,000 in state aid to Seaman schools.  These cuts couldn't come at a worse time during the current school year."

"The House Republican budget plan will reduce funding from the Seaman School District by $102 per student," said Representative Sean Gatewood, D-Topeka, who represents part of the district.  "Without a contingency reserve fund in place, Seaman will be forced to cut $100,000 from special education and use almost all of the money provided by state aid to build a new school."

"Because special education is mandated by the state, the Seaman School District will take money from their general fund to make up the difference," added Gatewood.

"The plan also has a detrimental effect on rural school districts because per pupil cuts will be much higher for most rural schools. For example, the West Soloman School District in Norton County will receive a $230 per pupil reduction. As a Representative of a rural school district, I know that this will have serious consequences on the quality of education that rural Kansas school districts can provide," said Representative Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett.  "In fact, 48 school districts statewide (almost all of them rural) will be operating in the red on July 1, 2009, even if they apply the entire balance of their contingency fund to fill the hole created by the reductions called for in the plan passed by the House Republicans."

"Although across the board cuts are an easy way to maneuver the budget process, they are a lazy and irresponsible way to solve our financial problems," added House Democratic Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.  "Cutting base aid across the board hurts schools because low enrollment and at-risk weighting are taken as part of the base aid amount, leaving Kansas schools unfairly underfunded."  

"In 2005 and 2006, the Kansas Legislature passed a three-year school finance plan that provides adequate and equitable funding for Kansas public schools in the wake of a Supreme Court decision requiring us to take this action," said Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka.

"Now, in just the third year of this plan, the House Republicans have thumbed their nose at local school boards and property taxpayers, parents, teachers, and students.  They have retreated in their commitment to the children of Kansas.  Their plan represents a dagger in the heart of the Montoy case, opening the door for another lawsuit against the state," Hensley continued.

"Findings of a legislative audit prove that the significant investment the state made in the children of Kansas has been paying off.  Reading and math test scores have improved dramatically and ACT scores of Kansas high school students are now among the highest in the nation," said Davis.    "Unfortunately, this irresponsible plan won't only be detrimental to school age children.

The House Republican budget plan will cut $3.1 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund," said Davis.  "An amendment was offered to restore funding to this vital program, only to have the Republicans vote it down."

The Children's Initiative Fund provides early education programs, including Head Start and child care to thousands of Kansas kids.  More than 2,000 local children under age five will be impacted by the cut.

"Collaboration, not confrontation, is what our constituents expect and deserve from us," Hensley concluded.  "We urge all members of the Kansas Legislature, regardless of party, to work together as we move forward in consideration of the 2009 budget in conference committee."


Education Budget Cut Talking Points

General:

·      The House budget plan for FY 2009 is irresponsible and will be detrimental to local school districts   

Sen. Anthony Hensley:

·      In 2005 and 2006, the Kansas Legislature passed a three-year school finance plan that provides adequate and equitable funding for Kansas public schools.   ·      This plan was in the wake of a Supreme Court decision requiring us to take action.

·      Now, in just the third year of this plan, the House Republicans have thumbed their nose at local school boards and property taxpayers, parents, teachers, and students.  They have retreated in their commitment to the children of Kansas.

·      Their plan represents a dagger in the heart of the Montoy case, opening the door for another lawsuit against the state.

·      Collaboration, not confrontation, is what our constituents expect and deserve from us.  We urge all members of the Kansas Legislature, regardless of party, to work together as we move forward in consideration of the 2009 budget in conference committee.

   Rep. Paul Davis:

·      Across the board cuts are an easy way to maneuver the budget process, but they are a lazy and irresponsible way to solve our financial problems.

·      Cutting base aid across the board hurts schools because low enrollment and at-risk weighting are taken as part of the base aid amount, leaving Kansas schools unfairly underfunded.

·      This irresponsible House budget plan will also cut $3.1 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund.  An amendment was offered to restore funding to this vital program, but the Republicans voted it down.

·      The Children's Initiative Fund provides early education programs, Head Start and child care to thousands of Kansas kids.  More than 2,000 local children under age five will suffer from the cut.                          

Rep. Bill Feuerborn

·      The plan also has a detrimental effect on rural school district because per pupil cuts will be much higher for most rural schools.

·      West Soloman School District will receive a $230 per pupil reduction.

·      This will have serious consequences on the quality of education rural schools can provide.

·      48 school districts statewide (mostly rural) will be operating in the red by July 1st, even if they apply the entire balance of their contingency fund.

Sen. Laura Kelly:

·      The Seaman School District and public schools across our state are facing a bad situation.

·      The House budget plan will cut millions of dollars in state funding from public schools.  Statewide schools will lose $51 million in FY 2009 - Seaman's share of the cuts will be $357,000.

·      These cuts couldn't come at a worse time during the current school year.

Rep. Sean Gatewood:

·      The House budget plan will reduce funding from the Seaman School District by $102 per student.

·      Without a contingency reserve fund in place, Seaman will be forced to cut $100,000 from special education and use almost all of the money provided by state aid that was previously reserved to build a new school.

·      Because special education is mandated by the state, the Seaman School District will have to take money from their general fund to make up the difference.