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K-12 Education makes up a large part of the budget of most states. In Kansas it is just about half of the budget. As Kansas has a large airline industry, which like other manufacturing industries has been hit by the recent economic downturn, there have been significant job losses. In the Wichita area this week alone, 8,000 layoff notices were handed out by Cessna, Bombardier Learjet, Hawker Beechcraft, and others. Coupled with the jobs lost in November and December, finding a job in the Wichita area has become difficult, as my husband has found out having been laid off from TECT Aerospace (a parts supplier for Cessna) on 12/05/08.
Now, K-12 education is faced with budget cuts for our current fiscal year as well as additional cuts for next fiscal year since state revenues, due to the above mentioned job losses, have shrunk considerably. Wichita Public Schools is the fourth largest employer in Sedgwick County. With the proposed cuts from the Kansas legislature, USD 259 will lose $88 per regular education student; special education students would receive additional cuts. That's $4,286,304 (for regular education) just this fiscal year - that's by June 30. If you divide that by the district's classroom teacher average salary that's 89.81 FTE (full time equivalent positions) by June 30, 2009. Then, after July 1, additional budget cuts added to that first $4.2 million and we have NO idea how high the Kansas legislature may go. Originally, the GOP led body proposed a cut that would have meant a loss of nearly $40 million to USD 259.
I am a budget analyst for Wichita Public Schools, so I do know what I am talking about. Our recent Bond issue was to be matched by the state; payments subsidized by the state making 25% of the cost. Now the state is specifically cutting payment assistance on Bond issues. There are 2 million square feet of additional school spaces (6 new schools, classrooms, gyms, etc) in that Bond Issue. Without the state’s funding, it is not likely that Wichita or many other districts in Kansas will be able to proceed as planned, meaning a loss in jobs – construction, engineering, architecture, etc.
The stimulus package has money in it specifically for Wichita Public Schools for Title I, IDEA, and Construction. The amount of indirect reimbursements to the district’s General Fund from the Title I and IDEA funds alone will help ease the state’s proposed cuts, nearly eliminating their impact. The $20 million in Construction funds would cover the Bond payments that the State of Kansas won’t be able to make, thus the Bond Issue can proceed, and all the jobs riding on Wichita Public Schools will be preserved. Jobs that will in turn pay taxes into city, county, and state coffers, spreading the effect of the stimulus package to the 10,000+ other governmental employees of the State of Kansas, City of Wichita, and Sedgwick County that reside in this community.
Senators, I ask that you seriously consider voting to pass the stimulus package without cutting K-12 funding. The next two years of funding from the stimulus package would certainly save jobs in Wichita and see nearly 49,000 public school students and their families, as well as 5,508 USD 259 employees and their families through this tremendously stressful time, restoring faith that our federal government cares about working class people on whose backs this country was built.
The TARP passed last quarter and has done little to ease my life and stress. Giving the money to the banks didn’t stop my husband from being laid off. This stimulus package, if implemented as planned, would mean that USD 259 could remove its current hiring freeze and my husband, now on unemployment, could get a job again.
I feel victimized by greedy investment managers who sold risky mortgage backed securities. I have no debt other than my mortgage, which I pay on time and in full. Before my husband was laid off, we actually paid more each month to pay off our loan early. What have we done to deserve this? I am a public employee, working for the benefit of K-12 children at a far lower wage than if I was in a commercial fiscal budgeting and planning position, but I chose this line of work because school districts need good financial managers too. I am appalled by how out of touch with Middle America the financial community apparently seems to be if they are complaining about $500,000 salary caps. What about teachers; the people that mold the minds of America’s youth? The average Wichita Public School teacher is paid $47,727 per year! It costs that much to get a bachelors degree and teaching credential today. Solving the economic crisis and stimulus package debate on the backs of already strapped school districts and teachers is appalling, and I am ashamed that you, seemingly educated and caring people, could suggest such a thing.
This is the letter I sent to Senators Brownback, Roberts, Collins, McCain, and McCollum on Friday.