TOPEKA (KSNT) – On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Education met to talk about what they consider to be a very real threat: budget cuts.
“During the campaign the governor and all the other candidates made a commitment that education was their top priority and that they would make no more cuts,” says Board of Education member, Janet Waugh.
But that was before the announcement of a major state budget shortfall.
“We know that we’re a major portion, the major potion of the state’s budget. So to be able to manage that shortfall without harming education, is going to be difficult,” says El Dorado Superintendent, Sue Givens.
So difficult, that members of the Board of Education don’t think school cuts are avoidable. But board members admit, they don’t know what’s left for districts to cut.
“There’s no fat, they’ve kinda cut away a lot of muscle, and I’m scared to death we’re going to start amputations,” says Waugh.
Those potential ‘amputations’ harm more than just students.
“We have a lot of people that rely on public schools, not only for the education of their children, but for employment in our communities,” says Givens.
Employment, says Givens, takes up almost 75 percent of school budgets. So cuts to schools means cutting staff and teachers. Teachers whose Kansas salary is already 42nd in the nation.
Some of the recommendations the Board outlined on Wednesday were continuing to employ retired teachers, and no cuts to special education programs in schools.
Educators said they hope that cuts, if any, will not be required for the current school year.
“It’s just not fair to our students, or to our staff,” says Givens.
To put it in perspective- half of the state’s annual budget goes to pay for public education, with another 12-percent to the state’s colleges and universities.