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Monday, June 30, 2014

Wichita school board approves cuts-heavy budget

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

As expected, the Wichita school board passed a budget Monday night that eliminates high school librarians, the elementary school orchestra program and about 230 jobs.

No one from the public signed up to speak at the only official hearing for the 2011-12 budget, but board members noted that the vote came after eight months of conversation and debate.

"I think we would all agree that this has been an incredibly difficult budget and a difficult year," said board member Connie Dietz. "I think we're all very familiar with what's happened."

Superintendent John Allison's $606 million budget does away with 230 jobs, including about 150 teaching positions. It replaces high school librarians with library clerks, eliminates stringed-instrument classes for fifth-graders, closes Blackbear Bosin Academy, reduces technology spending and cuts the number of schools that receive Title 1 money intended to help needy students.

The budget was reduced because of a shortfall in state aid to schools, after lawmakers voted this year to reduce the per-pupil allocation by $232.

The board voted 6-0 to approve the budget. Board member Lynn Rogers was absent.

It was still unclear Monday whether National Academic League, a question-and-answer competition for middle school students, would continue this school year.

Allison said $30,000 in funding for the program was not added back into the budget, despite a request by board member Barbara Fuller at the last board meeting. The board did not discuss the program.

Allison said officials are seeking grants and other private funding to continue the program, but, "I can't say at this point in time" whether National Academic League will continue. The regular season starts in late fall.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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