Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, said today that she wants Gov. Sam Brownback to channel about $34 million in projected savings from an early retirement program into the education system, which has faced cuts in recent years.
The roughly 1,000 early retirements are expected to produce $8.9 million in savings this fiscal year and $29.6 million in the next fiscal year.
In a letter to Brownback and House and Senate budget committees, Teichman wrote that the state has cut $325 million from K-12 education, equating to nearly $18,000 in cuts to every classroom in the state.
“The toll on K-12 education has been severe,” she wrote.
Teichman, who is on the Senate Education Committee, said the cuts have hit rural areas hardest, led to lost jobs and could be hurting Brownback’s effort to attract more people to rural areas.
She referred to Rural Opportunity Zones, a Brownback initiative that provides income tax exemptions for five years when someone moves to a designated rural area from out of state and up to $15,000 in student loan forgiveness.
“Over 500 jobs have been lost in the past few years because of the severity of education cuts in these ROZ counties alone,” the letter says. “If a community loses its school, it loses its identity and becomes unable to attract new residents that would otherwise take advantage of the ROZ legislation.”
Teichman’s letter comes as Brownback’s administration prepares to present estimated school finance numbers to the Board of Education next week. Conceptual outlines presented around the state and to the education board indicated that no school district will receive less money than it gets under the current formula.
“Sen. Teichman’s concerns point to why the state needs a new school finance formula,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, said in an e-mail. “Governor Brownback will be announcing his proposal to get more money into Kansas classrooms very soon. He looks forward to work with the senator and her fellow legislators on this very important issue.”