Teachers, lawmakers speak out about cuts to education funding

WICHITA, Kansas – Teachers and lawmakers are speaking out about cuts to education funding that Governor Sam Brownback announced late last week.

Teralyn Cohn has been an english teacher at Wichita’s Southeast High School for 13 years.

The news of $45 million in cuts to K-12 and higher education worries her.

“If that funding is cut that means I’m going to have kids in my classroom that aren’t getting the services that they are use to,” said Cohn.

Governor Brownback released a statement Thursday saying “the dramatic increase in state education funding that has occurred over the last four years is unsustainable.”

State Senator Michael O’Donnell says lawmakers are working hard to deal with the budget deficit.

In November, the state reduced its estimates on how much money would be coming in each month, after months of shortfalls.

“Obviously the income tax we take in, the property tax, the sales tax we take in each month, we’ve been missing by millions of dollars each month,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell also pointed to the funding bill passed last year by lawmakers.

This was done to comply with a state supreme court ruling on a school finance lawsuit.

“We left in May passing $130 million in added local budget option funding, what ended up happening is the receipts came up and it was $206 million,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell argues this isn’t a cut, but a reduction to an increase, saying funding levels are still higher than in some previous years.

“Well north, even north of $150 million more is being spent on education in Kansas in 2015, than was spent in 2014,” said O’Donnell.

State Board of Education member Janet Waugh says she’s concerned about the state of education funding.

Waugh says districts have cut as much as they can.

“The classrooms are now being impacted, the class sizes are increasing and programs are being dropped.. and this is tragic this has a direct impact on the education of every individual student in this state,” said Waugh.

Its left  teachers like Cohn feeling uneasy about the future.

“I work with several first year teachers and early-career teachers and they’re worried, they’re worried they won’t have a job next year,” said Cohn.

O’Donnell also pointed out that education accounts for 60-percent of the yearly budget.

He adds that with the current budget shortfall, reductions have to be considered if taxes aren’t going to be raised.

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