Thousands more Wichita teachers are opting for a lump-sum summer paycheck this year, fearing that a Supreme Court threat to shut down schools may become a reality.
According to district officials, 3,349 teachers – about 80 percent – have requested that the balance of their annual compensation be paid in June this year rather than spread over June, July and August. Last year, only 673 teachers requested the lump-sum payment.
The option is available as part of the Wichita teachers contract.
“I think it reflects everyone’s overall angst,” said Steve Wentz, president of United Teachers of Wichita, which represents the district’s 4,200 teachers. “There’s a lot of concern over the uncertainty of what’s going on.”
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Opting for the lump-sum payment, Wentz said, “is a smart, prudent, reasonable move that may or may not prove to be necessary.”
In February, local teachers union officials urged teachers to opt for the lump sum as a precaution in case schools shut down July 1.
Earlier that month, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to fix unfair and unconstitutional school funding by a June 30 deadline or risk shutting down school districts statewide.
Last week, Kansas lawmakers rapidly passed a bill that legislative leaders say meets the court order, but even some backers questioned whether it would be enough to keep schools from closing.
Jim Freeman, chief financial officer for the Wichita district, said more teachers requesting a lump sum shouldn’t cause payroll or budget problems because the district runs all payrolls in June regardless.
The average monthly payroll for Wichita teachers is about $12.4 million. In June, the district’s payroll budget is about $53 million and includes all the summer months’ pay for teachers and other employees, Freeman said.