TOPEKA - Yesterday, on the eve of a debate to eliminate the Kansas income tax, Republicans on the House Appropriations committee voted to cut an additional $28.5 million from Kansas public schools. The House Republican budget, which passed out of committee on a party line vote, cuts $41 off of the base state aid per pupil.
“Public schools have endured more than their fair share of budget cuts over the last few years,” said Rep. Bill Feuerborn (D-Garnett), the ranking minority member on the House Appropriations Committee. “Now that the economy has improved and we have a $400 million budget surplus, deeper cuts are unnecessary, mean spirited and completely counterproductive to our long-term economic goals.”
Republicans claimed that schools' reserve funds that should be depleted before the state invests more into public education. If the House Republicans’ cuts are approved by the full Legislature, it will grow the Kansas budget surplus to $500 million in the next fiscal year.
“Reserve funds exist to help schools make ends meet when the state delays payments or makes significant cuts,” said Feuerborn. “They should not be used as a 'punishment' for districts who efficiently budget, and they should not be used so Republicans can bulk up the state's ending balance to pay for big tax breaks for the wealthy."
Before the economy plummeted in 2008, the Kansas Base State Aid Per Pupil was $4,433. After several rounds of cuts - including the latest proposed cut by House Republicans - the BSAPP drops to $3,739. Last year alone, Gov. Brownback initiated a $232 per pupil cut to public schools. This totaled $104 million, which is the largest cut to public education in Kansas history.
“Why are Republicans proposing massive tax breaks while still cutting funding for public schools?,” said House Democratic Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence). “Of course the Legislature shouldn’t go on a spending spree with the current budget surplus, but we need to make some priorities and restoring school cuts should be at the top. Schools are closing, class sizes are increasing, and children are suffering. Before we throw new tax cuts at corporations and the wealthiest of Kansans, we need to properly fund public education."
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