WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – John Allison, the USD 259 superintendent of schools, addressed a possible shutdown today. It follows a Kansas Supreme Court decision on education funding. The court on Friday rejected education funding changes made earlier this year by lawmakers. It warned that schools will be unable to reopen after June 30 if lawmakers don’t approve additional changes by then. So far, the governor hasn’t called the legislature into a special session.
Superintendent John Allison sent out an email to staff answering some of the questions about a possible shutdown. He addressed the most common.
Q: Are schools really going to close down?
A: After yesterday’s inaction by the legislature, that prospect is closer to reality. The Court has given the legislature until June 30 to fix funding inequity so there is still time. Simply put, we must plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Q: Will employees go without pay?
A: We know that you are our most important asset. I have heard from many of our employees who are concerned that they should begin searching for other employment options in order to ensure their family isn’t without income in July. We are a people business. We need YOU! Every effort is being explored to evaluate ways that we can protect our employees from the loss of income.
Q: If we have to shut down, will it impact enrollment and the start of school?
A: Potentially. The specific answer would depend on how long a shutdown would last, and whether any emergency provisions (for expenditures such as utilities) would be allowed by the Court. In addition to protecting our human assets, it is vitally important we protect our physical assets as well, including technology and network systems, buildings, and building contents. The loss of electricity and other utilities has the potential of damaging computer systems, wood floors, library books and many other elements of our facilities. All of those factors and more would have to be taken into consideration.
Q: How are summer activities like summer school, latchkey, special education services and the summer food program be impacted?
A: If a shutdown is ordered, any program or service which relies on district personnel or facilities to accommodate would also be shut down. Our regular summer school program is completed by July 1 so that wouldn’t be impacted. Latchkey, extended summer programs, the summer food program and special education programs would be suspended for the period of a shutdown, though special education services for students as required by their IEP would require compensatory services.
Q: How will this impact our community?
A: The looming shutdown is not just a public school event, it’s a community event that has the potential for far-reaching impact across Kansas. Eight of the 50 largest employers in our four-county economic area are public school districts. In Wichita, our monthly payroll and non-bond vendor payments total $50-$52 million. Most of our teachers exercised the lump-sum payment option for the summer, which means the potential lost investment of money in our community could be close to $40 million depending on the variables of when and how long a shutdown might last.
Q: What about churches and other groups that rent our facilities?
All community rentals for church services, special events or other purposes would be suspended for the period of the shutdown.