We seem to have a societal soft-spot for kids. Not without reason. Individually, they can be hellish, screaming nightmares. Nevertheless, if we want to continue to have a functional society with a growing economy, you need to invest in kids.
One way to make sure children have the tools to be productive members of society is to fund all-day kindergarten. According to the National Education Association, all-day kindergarten better prepares students for the first grade, they achieve more, and it is cost effective. For every dollar invested, three dollars are saved. Facing a tough challenge from Democrat Paul Davis, Gov. Sam Brownback has been pushing an initiative to fund all-day kindergarten in Kansas. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year.
Kansas has been having education problems recently. Earlier this month, the state supreme court ruled that the legislature had not been fairly funding Kansas schools. As a result, the state needs to find about $130 million dollars to cover the shortfall.
The money issues won’t abate any time soon. The Brownback-supported tax cuts of recent years have really done a number on revenues. Billions of dollars will be lost if the tax cuts continue.
The cuts slashed available revenue, leading to declines at a time when most states have seen revenue growth. Kansas’s revenue drop last year was second only to Alaska’s, according to one academic estimate. Revenues grew in 38 states, fueling a nationwide average of 2 percent growth. Kansas’s own nonpartisan legislative analysts estimate a revenue decline of about $5.2 billion by the end of fiscal 2018 thanks to the cuts.
Schools are definitely feeling the pinch. Brownback claims that his budget increases education spending, but in reality that increase is so small that it’s likely not going to outpace inflation. Under a current proposal, school funding would be well below pre-recession levels.
And the drop in revenue was matched by a drop in school funding, CBPP found. Last school year, 18 states raised general funding per student relative to inflation, while 29 did so this year. As general school funding rebounded in the median state, Kansas’ continues to fall — and would fall further under Brownback’s proposal, CBPP found. Should his cuts be enacted, school funding would be 17 percent below pre-recession levels, adjusted for inflation.
Clearly, money for education is going to be a big headache for state lawmakers for the foreseeable future. Which may be why Brownback’s proposal for all-day kindergarten was nixed.
But it’s not the only reason. Conservatives were also concerned that all-day kindergarten would be used as a replacement for daycare with little academic rigor.
Oh no! Kids who are old enough for kindergarten might actually go to kindergarten? The horror!
If I thought this was a short term budget problem, I might have hope for the future of education in Kansas. However, if Republican lawmakers get their way, we’ll have budget problems for the next several years, and it will be the kids and the poor that are most harmed.
Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks via Flickr