Kansas schools, while presenting a gloomy financial outlook, have failed to spend all the funds they’ve been given.
The chart illustrates rising fund balances carried over to the next year. It’s money that wasn’t spent. Note that for the schools that are part of the Schools for Fair Funding group that is suing the state for more money: As a group, their carryover fund balances have increased.
The carryover fund balances have been increasing, and rapidly, too. From 2009 to 2010, for all school districts in Kansas, carryover funds increased from $699,150,812 to $774,648,615. That’s an increase of 9.7 percent. From 2005 to 2010, again for all Kansas school districts, the increase is 69 percent. These numbers exclude debt service and capital outlay funds. Those funds have been mostly increasing, too.
The increase in these carryover cash balances happened at the same time schools have laid off teachers and threatened to cut programs and close schools.
School spending advocates argue that these carryover funds are necessary for various reasons, and they’re correct. Most businesses or organizations need a cushion in the bank to pay bills before revenue comes in.
But the only way the balances in these funds can grow — year after year as they have — is that schools simply aren’t spending all the money they’ve been given.
The Wichita Eagle editorial board sides with the school spending advocates who claim that these funds can’t be used.
Evidence tells us, however, that the funds have been used. For the last school year, by using fund balances, schools in Kansas were able to increase spending by an estimated $320 million. Revenue to Kansas school districts declined by about $50 million, but $370 in fund balances were used to boost total spending by $320 million.