WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The latest sign of the controversy over school funding in Kansas took on the form of a banner outside a Wichita high school. The sign was discovered early Friday morning and labeled an April Fool’s Day joke.
Someone reportedly hung a large tarp on a brick wall outside Wichita’s Northwest High School, which read: “SKOOL 4 SALE – OUT OF FUNDS.”
The banner also listed a phone number to call: That of Governor Sam Brownback’s office (785-296-3232).
KSN reached out to USD 259 to learn more about the prank and their response. We were told that there is no security footage on site where the sign was posted and school officials do not know who posted the sign.
Wendy Johnson, the Director of Marketing and Communications for Wichita Public Schools also said,
“. . . This appears to be someone’s effort at a humorous April Fool’s commentary on the funding crisis that public education is facing in Kansas.”
Some parents think the public should take the prankster’s advice.
“I think that’s the only way that things are going to make a difference — if people do get involved and call and complain,” said parent, Robin Gales.
Gales also praised the prank, hoping it will bring about change.
“The more parents and people that, you know, are making a stink about it, maybe something will actually happen,” said Gales.
Even some state lawmakers are laughing at the April Fool’s joke.
“I do think it’s pretty funny,” said Republican Kansas Senator Michael O’Donnell, “I saw that was Governor Brownback’s phone number, I did think – I do see the humor in all that.”
USD 259 Board of Education member Lynn Rogers called the prank, “very ingenious.”
Rogers says there was no harm done, but, the education funding issue is at its core, “no laughing matter.”
“There’s some dark days for public education right now, and people have been very discouraged,” Rogers said.
Yet, Senator Michael O’Donnell said the prank is also harmful — in terms of how the district is handling the issue and educating students on the topic of school funding in Kansas.
“The school district does have money, and every year, over the last number of years, the funding’s actually gone up,” O’Donnell said.
Wichita school district representatives say “flat funding” for the district is actually a funding cut since the district’s costs will increase next year, in estimates as high as $30 million.
“Where are the priorities?” asked Sen. O’Donnell. “Where the school district is, if they’re concerned about $15 to $17, to $30 million — all these figures they throw out — there’s things they [the school district] can do.”
Meanwhile, Rogers says state legislators have the same responsibility, and suggests they step into a classroom.
“They’ve not gone to shadow a teacher, to understand the impact of what these cuts are doing, and to me that’s very discouraging,” said Rogers.
Since the phone number listed on the banner at Northwest High School is the number of the Gov. Brownback’s office in Topeka, KSN reached out to the governor to see whether there were an increase in calls Friday due to the prank, and to get the governor’s reaction to it. At last report, KSN News has not yet received a response from his office.