WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita schools is cutting $22.7 million out of the budget. To save more money, the district wants to shorten the school year, and lengthen the school day. The budget people say a shorter school year will save on busing costs. It’s the final piece to the budget cutting puzzle that has taken months to piece together.
But, teachers have to approve it with a union vote that begins Monday and wraps on Wednesday.
“There’s strong feelings on both sides,” says Kimberly Howard with the United Teachers of Wichita. “I think on one side you have teachers who feel like 4:40 p.m.is too late for the little kids to get off school and walk home, especially in the winter when it gets dark early. But, on the other side, you have teachers who are thinking it saves our data leaders, it saves our librarians and saves our custodians. They want to save their colleagues and do what’s best.”
Ballots are already coming in to the United Teachers of Wichita. But, what if the ballot comes back, and the change is not approved?
School leaders say there are other cuts already on the table, ready to go.
“If we can’t do that, then the board will have to make some decisions about where we go to balance the budget because we don’t have a choice. Legally, they have to approve a balanced budget,” says USD 259 Superintendent John Allison. “And that’s what they are going to have to do.”
Allison says either way they will have to generate $3 million in savings. Other cuts would come from a mix of librarians. data leaders and custodians.”
Board member Barb Fuller hopes this isn’t pitting the union against the board of education for the school district.
“We care about our kids, our schools, our community and we want to work with the union and have the best relationship as we go forward,” says Fuller. “So that is not having one side against the other side. It’s about Wichita public schools and going ahead. And I hope that the legislature will begin to listen to the kinds of things that we as a school board are having to do.”
Fuller says regardless what comes next, either cuts to custodial services and librarians, she has a very distinct message for lawmakers.
“They don’t show. They don’t come to a board meeting. They are in town right now and they had every avenue that they could (attend) and they could even come to a high school graduation and see what kind of kids that we are sending to graduation,” says Fuller. “I’m going to call them before the (next) board meeting Monday night. I want them down at the meeting. I want them to see the give and take of what we go through when we go through the (cutting) list.”
Voting continues through Wednesday morning. Votes should be counted by the afternoon.
School leaders stress that total teacher pay will not be impacted in any way because of the vote.