Wichita Schools Could See More Cuts

By: Beth Jett
By: Beth Jett

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KAKE News has just learned that more budget cuts could hit Wichita schools even before your child leaves for Christmas break.

Wichita school superintendent Winston Brooks believes the state may cut millions from education as soon as next month and may be forced to consider layoffs.

Wichita has already cut $2.1 million from its budget, to bring it to about $375 million.

Eighty five percent of that goes for salaries and benefits.

Brooks shared his thoughts with KAKE News about what might happen.

The bottom line is he hasn't ordered pinkslips for anyone and has already asked his staff to help him react to a $10 to $12 million cut to his budget.

Brooks says he thinks the schools are going to be in the same situation that Boeing and many of the other aircraft companies have been in the community.

As superintendent of USD 259 and Wichita's 5th largest employer, Brooks has had conversations with both governor Bill Graves and governor-elect Kathleen Sebelius about the future.

While neither Graves nor Sebelius told him what would be done, Brooks says it is his gut feeling that Graves will make the cuts in mid December. The cuts could amount to $100 to $200 per student.

For USD 259 that translates to a district wide cut of anywhere from $6 million to $12 million.

Brooks says, "We're going to be looking at pink slips and be implementing, for the first time, I think, in the history of this district, a reduction in force, where we in midstream, in mid-year, reduce the number of teachers in classrooms. We may reduce the number of administrators, once again, we reduce the number of classified employees."

Meanwhile, Brooks is already considering other solutions. For example, Brooks says USD 259 has a contingency or rainy day fund to the tune of $4 million. He says he could forfeit that, then, perhaps implement a hiring freeze, which could save him a $1 million and then a purchasing freeze that might save another $1 million. But he'll still have to come up with an additional $4 million to $6 million in cuts by the end of the school year in May.

Brooks says, "We're going to have to ask the people in this district, who work here, the teachers, the administrators and the classified employees, who in my opinion are already doing more than they ever contracted for, to do even more."

But again this is not a done deal. The comments you've heard from Brooks are just his speculation. He is hoping whatever cuts must be taken, must be leveled sooner than later. Since he's right in the middle of his fiscal year and it would be much easier to manage now or in mid December, than waiting for any action under Kathleen Sebelius, which would happen at earliest mid-January.

Brooks says his staff is reviewing the laws of workforce reduction, which will be the first move of its kind in years.

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