Wichita teachers may get another chance to request a lump-sum paycheck this summer, amid fears of a statewide school shutdown.
According to district officials, about two-thirds of the district’s teachers requested by a March 31 deadline that the balance of their annual salaries be paid in June this year rather than spread over June, July and August.
Spokeswoman Susan Arensman said the district “will potentially open the window again based on shutdown concerns.”
Officials said earlier this week that a statewide shutdown of Kansas schools is more likely this year because lawmakers face a complex funding fix and a looming court-ordered deadline.
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In a ruling last month, the Kansas Supreme Court said the state’s block grant funding system for schools is unconstitutional, and it gave lawmakers until June 30 to craft a new school finance formula or potentially face statewide school closures.
Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said he thinks a shutdown is less likely this year because “the political climate in Topeka is different” after Democrats and moderate Republicans made gains in November’s election.
Nevertheless, Wentz said he is encouraging teachers to take the lump-sum option.
“I would say a shutdown certainly could happen, and that’s frightening,” he said.
“If teachers are concerned, they should definitely take that (lump-sum) option. … The best thing to do is to be safe, and if you do the lump sum, that’s being safe.”
The option is available – usually within a certain notification window – as part of the Wichita teachers contract.
Prior to last year, only about 13 percent of Wichita teachers opted for a lump-sum paycheck.
District officials say more teachers requesting a lump sum doesn’t cause payroll or budget problems because the district runs all payrolls in June regardless.