It’s back to “business as usual” for Marion County schools after the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding across the state was once again inadequate.
“We are in a position that we could surely use more funding,” Max Heinrichs, superintendent of the Hillsboro School District, said. “We can’t necessarily do things exactly how we want to.”
The high court held that, despite a plan that includes a $522 million increase in funding over several years statewide, the legislature failed to account for inflation.
Unlike last year, there will be no special session to address the school funding shortfall. The court gave lawmakers until next June to fix the funding.
The Hillsboro School District, USD 410, which is the largest in Marion County, is projected to receive $3,934,407 in funding from the state for the 2018-19 school year, according to data provided by the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE). This is an increase of $125,222, or 3.3 percent, from last year.
The same data projected the Marion School District, USD 408, to receive $3,570,832 in state aid. This is a $29,701, or 0.8 percent, increase from last year.
Peabody-Burns, USD 398, is projected to receive $2,072,264 for the 2018-19 school year—a $70,431, or 3.5 percent, increase.
Goessel, USD 411, is projected to receive $2,119,152—a $91,448, or 4.5 percent, increase.
Centre is expected to receive the smallest increase in the county. USD 397 is projected to receive $2,568,822. This is an increase of $14,042, or 0.5 percent.
The legislature also increased the funding amount provided to each district for special education. The funds are distributed to the districts and then pooled together into the Marion County Special Education Co-op.
The county is expected to receive an additional $273,346 in special education funding, according to the data provided by KSDE.
Heinrichs said, while the increase was a step in the right direction, the school district will still be strapped for money.
To save money, the district is postponing many maintenance projects on district facilities.
“Eventually, we’ll have to address our buildings and roads and facilities,” Heinrichs said. “But the money isn’t there for that right now.”
This comes at a time when classes are growing at Hillsboro.
Heinrichs said he expects an incoming kindergarten class of close to 55 students. This is nearly double the incoming class of high school seniors, which is 28.
“We’ve increased classroom sizes,” Heinricsh said. “If you look at bigger schools, they have classrooms smaller than ours.”
Heinrichs said some elementary classrooms have as many as 28 students.
“That a little too large,” Heinrichs said. The goal, he said, is 20 or fewer students per classroom.
To reach that goal, the district is trying to increase its number of teachers.
In the last year, they have added a preschool teacher and a second grade teacher. Heinrichs said the additional money from the state will be used to hire more teachers.
“We’re very happy about the growth,” Heinrichs said. “But we’re stuck spending on growth rather than salaries for staff that has been here a long time. The ideal situation is that we would be able to do both.”
Heinrichs said, as superintendent, there is too much work to do to get caught up on funding woes.
“It may not be the amount that we would wish for,” Heinrichs said. “But it’s back to business as usual.”
Projected state funding for county districts
Hillsboro, USD 410: $3,934,407, 3.3 percent increase
Marion, USD 408: $3,570,832, 0.8 percent increase
Centre, USD 397: $2,568,822, 0.5 percent increase
Goessel, USD 411: $2,119,152, 4.5 percent increase
Peabody, USD 398: $2,072,264, 3.5 percent increase
*Statistics from the Kansas State Department of Education*