Base state aid is wrong focus for Kansas school spending

Much of the discussion surrounding school funding in Kansas centers around base state aid per pupil. It’s the starting point for the Kansas school finance formula, and therefore an important number.

Base state aid per pupil has been cut in recent years. This allows supporters of more school spending to claim that spending has been cut. The truth is that when considering all spending, Kansas schools will spend more this past school year than in any other. See Wichita school spending: The grain of truth.

What’s important to realize is that the nature of Kansas school funding has changed in a way that makes base state aid per pupil less important as a measure of school spending. Research from Kansas Policy Institute has shown that while base state aid per pupil has not grown, total state spending on schools has grown. Two reasons are rising spending on KPERS pension contributions and aid to schools for bond construction projects. The largest factor is rapid growth in the spending produced by the school finance formula’s various weightings.

A chart is available from KPI at Simple Comparisons of Base State Aid are Deceptive.

It is a happy accident for the Kansas school spending establishment that base state aid per pupil has fallen at the same time that overall spending on schools has increased in almost every year. It allows the school spending lobby to make an argument that is superficially true, but deceptive at the same time. A closer look at school spending is necessary to understand the entire situation.


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