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Kansas K-12 spending short of requirements, report says

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas legislators didn't authorize enough spending for schools, according to a state Department of Education report that says the budgets for the next two years are $650 million short of what the law requires.

The report was included as part of the State Board of Education's June meeting agenda but discussion was omitted after additional time was devoted to academic standards.

Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis' report shows the difference between what the state is required by law to spend on public schools and what was authorized for fiscal years 2014, which begins July 1, and again in 2015.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed the budget Saturday, locking in spending levels for the next two years.

"However, the State Board of Education may submit additional requests above the amount approved by the Legislature and governor," Dennis wrote in his memo.

Agencies typically submit budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year each fall. The governor then submits a budget proposal to legislators each January. However, Brownback sought a two-year budget to provide agencies with more stability and certainty in their operations.

State statutes require base state aid per pupil, the benchmark for education funding, to be $4,492 per student in 2015. However, all funding levels are subject to legislative appropriation and the actual dollar amount is $3,852, an increase of $14 over the 2013 and 2014 amounts. To fund the law would require more than $430 million in additional state spending.

Legislators also are required to reimburse schools for 92 percent of the excess cost of providing special education services, a level that would require an additional $72 million in 2015.

The figures have been known for some time and a district court has ordered legislators to make up the differences in spending. A three-judge panel in January sided with attorneys representing parents and school districts seeking increased education funding.

Attorneys for the state argued that legislators did their best to protect education funding during the Great Recession and that cuts were mitigated by using federal funds and allowing school districts to tap reserve accounts.