Two school districts in Kansas have announced that they will be closing two weeks early this year due to insufficient funds.
Concordia Unified School District plans to shut down six days early on May 16, while Twin Valley Unified School District will close their doors a full 12 days ahead of schedule on May 8.
Concordia schools also announced they will be closed between April 16 and May 1 in order to spread out the days that certain staff members will not be paid.
Concordia Superintendent Bev Mortimer said children in the school were coming up and hugging her after the announcement was made.
“They remember me as the snow day lady. We are popular with the kids but not the parents.”
A school funding overhaul was signed by Governor Sam Brownback in March that ended up causing schools across the state to lose $51 million between them that could have helped them finish up the school year. When asked why they were closing early, the Twin Valley school board cited “the present mid-year, unplanned financial cuts recently signed into law.”
Tax cuts have caused the state to take other drastic measures as well. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that the state has cut per-pupil spending by $950 between 2008 and 2014. May of 2014 found the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that school funding levels were unconstitutionally inequitable. The court ordered an immediate reversal of a number of spending cuts in order to bring per-pupil spending up to $4,492, writes Christina Wilkie for The Huffington Post.
In order to satisfy the judgement, Governor Brownback passed a $129 million education finance bill in 2014. However, the legislation was quickly dismissed by a number of officials as an “accounting gimmick.” Officials believed the governor was simply moving funds from at-risk schools to other poorer schools.
While a number of schools were left underfunded, corporations benefited by receiving a tax break for donating scholarship money to private schools.
At the same time, the Kansas Legislature is looking to spend $3 million outsourcing an efficiency study pertaining to government waste in an effort to use the state’s money more effectively.
Sen. Longbine suggested removing the funding for the consultant, but was quickly shot down.
“My concern is that if we spend $3 million on a consultant that we don’t have a (request for proposal) designed for yet, we don’t know … how that study may be conducted, and we just spend $3 million and this body or the body next door may not have the political will or the agreement to pass that. Considering the financial shape that we’re in, I think the $3 million is best spent in the (state general fund).”
Concordia schools believes that the time off will save the school around $30,000. Twin Valley has not released their estimated savings.