WICHITA, Kansas – Wichita schools has to cut up to $30 million from the budget next year.
“We have such a big hole, I know we are going to have to have conversations about it,” says USD 259 Chief Financial Officer Jim Freeman.
Freeman gave his list of items to the school board. Many of the items are listed as needing further study.
“We are just not at a point where we can rule out anything on this list,” says Freeman.
The list includes potentially cutting one teacher from each school in the district or closing some of the elementary schools that have smaller attendance compared with others.
“Everything is on the table and they are looking at all options for the district,” says Wichita South High School Principal Cara Ledy. “Just looking at the impact, I want to see what the impact is to our student academics. That’s a piece of the picture as well.”
Ledy says whatever moves happen, it will have an impact. She explains her school has already shuffled teacher development time to save money.
“So, the idea of cutting back on teacher development days will have an impact on the district,” says Ledy. But, Ledy says, South High teachers roll teacher development time into their schedules already. “Our teachers need professional development, we all do, to stay sharp and know our content and strategies and to meet the needs of our students.”
Other areas to cut include supplies and cutting some of the frequency of bus routes. Also on the table, getting rid of the half-dozen or so mini fridges and microwaves at some of the high schools.
“I’d gladly give up a fridge or a microwave to keep more teachers,” says South High math teacher Carla VanCleave. “I get around and talk to the kids and the more kids you put in the class, you are less able to do that. So, I have them work in groups and with partners, but I still want to get in and talk to students. And the more you overload the class, you are less likely to talk to students.”
The school board will get a closer look at the recommendations from Freeman likely on March 28. They could begin cutting as soon as next month. The final budget for USD 259 in the next year will not be official until August.
“I want to stress that no decisions have been made yet. This is just a starting point, but we have to put everything on the table for consideration and discussion,” said Superintendent John Allison. “We are very limited on where we can make cuts to balance the budget.”