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State Panel Approves Emergency Funding For Wichita Refugee Students

Sean Sandefur

A panel of state officials has approved more than $4 million in emergency aid for 25 Kansas school districts that requested the additional funding. As KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports, the money was mostly provided to districts with enrollment growth or falling property values.

The panel approved $400,000 for Kansas districts with growing student population and more than $350,000 for Wichita Public Schools to help educate refugee students. That district has nearly 100 new refugees from Africa and Asia.

Diane Gjerstad, with the Wichita district, says some of those students have had little formal education. “We know we need to serve these students to give them intensive language supports because they’re going to be citizens of our country and we want them to be very successful,” Gjerstad says.

Some lawmakers were frustrated that the federal government isn’t helping to pay for the refugee students. An official with the Department for Children and Families says Kansas missed a deadline to apply for federal funding, but the state can apply for the assistance next year.

The extra money is significantly less than the districts had requested. The state’s block grant system for schools doesn’t take into account variables like student enrollment, which is why the extraordinary needs funding is available.