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Wichita School District delays decision on last phase of cuts

Wichita teachers will wait another week to find out whether they will still have a job next school year.

District leaders decided Thursday not to present the final phase of recommended cuts, which could include reduction in school staff, at Monday's school board meeting.

Instead, the school board will decide what cuts are needed at a special board meeting May 19, when budget plans by the Legislature could be more firm.

"It appears they're finally running budget bills," superintendent John Allison said. "I hoped all along we never got to Phase 5."

Larry Landwehr, president of United Teachers of Wichita, said the postponement is wise and benefits teachers.

"It's one less stressor during the last weeks of school," he said. "Actually, delaying it makes them less nervous. The Legislature might be working on solutions — looking at the possibility of things improving."

The district has worked to hit a target of $25 million in reductions. Allison has already announced roughly $14 million in cuts, most affecting central administration.

Allison said he knows the delay will affect employees.

"People are on edge," Allison said. "They're waiting for the next shoe to drop."

But he said it's better than having to talk about layoffs when they may not be needed.

The district is required by state law to tell teachers by May 21 if their jobs are cut for next school year.

If it's not clear where the Legislature is headed by the middle of next week, Allison said the district would have to go ahead with the final phase of cuts.

Delaying the discussion of cuts buys the district some time, but it doesn't mean the school board won't have to make the reductions planned in the last phase, said president Barbara Fuller.

"We might have to do it all — or even add," she said.

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