Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools superintendent Cynthia Lane had a tough day Wednesday. She spent six hours telling 31 members of her staff that they were out of a job and hundreds of other employees that they will get less pay.
The district announced Friday afternoon that it was laying off Edwin Hudson, its chief of human resources, and 30 assessment managers hired three years ago to keep track of state assessment scores so teachers and principals could concentrate more on school instruction.
“We are really down to losing essential services,” Lane said Friday. “One of the things we value here is recruiting and retaining the best employees that we can. It was a rough day.”
Lane said that when she realized she would have to eliminate positions, she looked at administration first.
“I absolutely believe if you have to cut people, you have got to start at the top,” she said.
She said the cuts were forced by years of low state funding, rising costs and the loss this year of $2 million in state money because of a new block grant funding measure that legislators passed and Gov. Sam Brownback signed to replace the state’s 23-year-old school funding formula. The new law reduced funding that districts had expected this year.
The governor’s press office did not respond Friday afternoon to calls about the district’s cuts.
The cuts, Lane said, were necessary to find $6.2 million the district needs to cover rising health costs, fund a technology infrastructure upgrade and offer additional college and career preparatory courses that had been promised to high school students.
“These cuts will create real pain, but we have worked hard to make them in a way that will still allow us to reach our goal of graduating each student prepared for college and careers,” chief financial officer Kelli Mather said in a statement Friday.
KCK school officials said that over the past seven years the district has lost $55 million in state funding while costs have gone up.
“We have cut more than $50 million,” Lane said. “There is no longer any fat left. … I frankly think there is very little left to cut that doesn’t dramatically impact what we do for our kids.”
No teachers are losing their job because of these cuts.
The statement released Friday afternoon said additional cuts will include four furlough days for all year-round employees, along with a reduction in the number of contract days for certain staff members, including teacher leaders. Those cuts affect 850 people who essentially will lose a portion of their pay for the 2015-2016 school year, Lane said.
Other cuts not related to personnel include a reduction of $900,000 in funding for alternative services, a 10 percent cut to all school department budgets, a reduction of $350,000 in textbook purchases and reduced spending on technology, transportation, professional development, supplies and summer school, among other things.