Students arrive at the Walton Rural Life Center Elementary School, in Walton, Kan., Jan. 18, 2013.
Photo by Jeff Tuttle/Reuters

Kansas school districts to close early after tax cut ‘experiment’


The economic fallout continues in Kansas, where Republican Gov. Sam Brownback recently signed a public school funding overhaul that cut millions in funding for the current school year.

Two school districts in the state are now ending the academic year early, according to the Associated Press, because they can no longer afford to stay open under the new plan.

The governor’s proposal, which passed the Kansas House in mid-March but was slowed by a court order that challenged parts of the plan, replaces the state’s previous education funding formula with block grants for the next couple years until legislators finalize a new formula. Critics say the proposed formula takes away millions of dollars in much-needed funding, including about $51 million this school year alone.

RELATED: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to cut millions in public-school funding

Brownback has received the brunt of the blame for Kansas’ fiscal woes after he spent his first term slashing taxes and promising an economic boom that never came. Instead, his “real live experiment” in applying conservative tax principles led to debt downgrades, weak growth, and left the state’s finances in ruins. 

As a result of those cuts, the two Kansas school districts have announced that they’ll be cutting their school years short because of an expected budgetary shortfall, including a reduction of state aid and increasing financial pressure. The Twin Valley School District will end its year on May 8 instead of May 20, while the Concordia school district will end its school year about a week short, on May 15 rather than May 21. Concordia schools also will be closed on April 16 and May 1, to spread out the days certain staff won’t be paid. 

“The board’s made a difficult decision,” Twin Valley Superintendent Jan Neufeld told The Wichita Eagle. “We have just a few fiscal reserves.”

Asked last week about the impact of he cuts, Brownback told reporters that Concordia would have had to adjust its spending anyway, despite the expected $51 million cuts, because it had low reserves and lost additional funding under the current formula. He argued that districts would benefit under his plan because block grants offer more flexibility and spending would increase in the next two years.