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Local coverage of education issues, health care, and science and technology.

Wichita Public Schools Votes To Reduce District Budget By $18 Million

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Abigail Wilson
/
KMUW
USD 259 Superintendent John Allison, Board of Education President Betty Arnold and Vice President Mike Rodee

The Board of Education for Wichita Public Schools voted unanimously to reduce the district's spending by $18 million for the 2016-17 school year.

Several board members were moved to tears as they shared their thoughts on the cuts, which take $5 million from building and departmental budgets and nearly $2 million from changes in bus routes and start times at five schools. The cuts also result in the consolidation of the district's two alternative metro schools, saving $785,000, and eliminate more than 100 district positions.

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Credit http://usd259.org/

For several months, teachers, union leaders and students have begged board members to spare nearly all 55 proposals of the included in the reductions. Board members Lynn Rogers, Barbara Fuller and Vice President Mike Rodee encouraged the community to speak to legislators about education funding in the state.

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Credit Abigail Wilson / KMUW

“All of these budget cuts are tough. There’s nobody up here that likes it,” Rodee said through tears. “But we need to look at the people who are doing it to us — our legislators, our government, our governor. We are the ones that are fighting to keep the schools alive, and they’re fighting to close them. And that's my opinion.”

Superintendent John Allison said the reductions were tough to recommend to board members because there were no good options.

"No one likes it," Allison said. "I've said from day one when we started this conversation there would be nothing we would talk about when it came to budget reductions that would be positive for our students our parents our staff or our community. And today...sadly, it's true."

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Credit Abigail Wilson / KMUW
Gracie Hale, a junior at eSchool.

Cost increases for the district are projected to be more than $22 million, with flat funding from the state. That means USD 259 still needs to cut more than $5 million in spending.

The board will vote on a final proposal at a later date that includes two options: to lengthen the school day by 30 minutes and shorten the school year by two weeks, or to eliminate some elementary and middle school librarians and data leaders who interpret student test scores, as well as to outsource the district's custodial staff. Any changes to the calendar must be negotiated with the local teachers union. The union is expected to take a vote on the issue next week.

Changes to the Wichita Public Schools employee health plans were not discussed at the meeting. Officials are considering a proposal that could establish premiums and higher deductibles for employees.

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