Wichita district looks at millions of dollars in potential cuts

Wichita district looks at millions of dollars in potential cuts

The largest district in Kansas weighs its options amid education funding uncertainties in the state.

Faced with rising costs and few signs that the state legislature will provide the funding needed to maintain programs, the Wichita (Kan.) school board has begun looking at millions of dollars in potential budget cuts for 2016-17.

The district, the largest in Kansas, estimates that its costs will increase next school year by $16 million to $30 million, and the chances of getting additional aid from the state are uncertain.

The Kansas legislature is trying to devise a school funding formula that satisfies a state Supreme Court order to fix funding inequities, but lawmakers in Topeka have yet to settle on a solution.

“Nothing on this list is good for kids,"  says Wichita Superintendent John Allison. "Until something is fixed in Topeka, this is our reality."

The cuts discussed could have a significant effect on the quality of education.

“This budget year, 88 percent of our operating budget is devoted to student and school expenditures," Allison says."We are very limited on where we can make cuts to balance the budget that don’t have direct impact on students and schools."

Chief Financial Officer Jim Freeman presented the board with a wide-ranging list of money-saving options, such as closing some schools; changing to a four-day week; restricting out-of-district enrollment; curtailing spending on supplies and equipment; cutting transportation costs; reducing fine arts and athletic programs; outsourcing custodial operations; reducing the number of teachers and librarians; eliminating all-day kindergarten and non-special-education prekindergarten; reducing the curriculum and instruction staff; eliminating coaching positions, nurses, school resource officers and counselors.

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