Early Summer Vacation for Some Kansas Students
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback consistently promised change throughout his two campaigns for the gubernatorial office. Elected with major Tea Party support, he promised to downsize the Kansas government. Change he made, too–and as promised one of the big changes he made was to the school budget system in Kansas. However the major school budget overhaul bill he just signed may be coming back to haunt him, as some Kansas school districts will have to wrap up classes early this year due to a lack of sufficient funds.
Since taking office, Brownback has slashed taxes left and right. While that may ostensibly seem like a good thing, it’s essential to keep in mind that any time taxes are lessened, the loss in revenue results in a direct loss of services from the government. All said and done, Brownback has lightened the state’s coffers by about one billion dollars. Much of that comes from major changes to the state’s income tax rules, that allow many business to avoid income taxes mostly or completely. Specifically regarding education, from 2008 to 2014, the state of Kansas has spent about $950 less per student. While obviously not all of that came from Brownback’s tenure–after all, he didn’t take office until 2011–it’s clear that he did nothing to turn around that trend either.
Not everyone has agreed with Brownback’s approach. In fact in 2013, a state court declared the amount of funding that the schools were receiving “unconstitutionally low” as they fell below a benchmark established by the court in a 2005 decision. The judges in the 2013 ruling stated about Brownback’s policies that it:
Seems completely illogical that the state can argue that a reduction in education funding was necessitated by the downturn in the economy and the state’s diminishing resources and at the same time cut taxes further. It appears to us the only certain result from the tax cut will be a further reduction of existing resources available and from a cause, unlike the ‘Great Recession’ which had a cause external to Kansas, that is homespun, hence, self-inflicted.
As a result of lack of funds, some Kansas school districts now have to cut their school years short. For example, the Concordia School District is going to have to close about a week early. Another school district, the Twin Valley District, will be closing a whole 12 days early.
The fact that these schools will be paying the price for the financial decisions of Brownback is certainly concerning, if only because those students may be at a disadvantage going into the next school year, or whatever they choose to do after their studies. While a week or so doesn’t seem like a lot, students do often lose some of their learning during the summer months. It’s estimated that students lose about two months of “grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months.” Prolonging summer vacation even more could lead to a bigger loss in those skills. Hopefully Kansas gets its budget snafu sorted out, so it doesn’t have to take money from its youngest citizens.