Schools face third round of budget cuts

For months now, Wichita school leaders have warned of budget cuts that will affect most of the district's 50,000 students, using words like "devastating," "painful" and "ugly."

On Monday, superintendent John Allison will present the details of another $9 million in school-based cuts as the district looks to fill a $30 million shortfall in state and federal funding.

Allison met with principals last week to review key elements of the plan but offered few specifics. He is scheduled to meet with them again Monday before presenting his phase-three cuts to school board members.

So far board members have tentatively approved cuts that would eliminate 72 positions, reduce technology spending and end funding for popular programs such as Parents as Teachers and the National Academic League. They also offered an early retirement incentive for up to 200 employees, approved a furlough day for non-teaching workers and cut the number of schools that will receive federal Title 1 funds intended to help needy students.

Other proposals being considered include replacing registered nurses with lower-paid licensed practical nurses in schools, a move they say would save about $2 million. In contract talks with the teachers union, board negotiators also have proposed at least one furlough day for teachers.

The board is expected to pass its final budget for next school year this summer.

"We're going to have to make decisions between bad and worse," board member Lynn Rogers said last month. "And they're not going to be fun."

Also on Monday, board members will consider whether to renew the district's contract with the YMCA for child care programs at 10 high schools.

The district pays about $200,000 a year for the child development centers. This year's proposed cost would be a bit less — $191,498 — because of the closing of a center at Metro-Midtown Alternative High School.

Board members also will consider a plan to buy two more residential properties near North High School to expand athletic facilities at the school.

The plan calls for the district to pay $180,900 for two properties — 1609 and 1625 N. Arkansas — including closing costs and state-mandated relocation costs. In the past month, the board has purchased eight other properties in the same area, just north of North High, for about $600,000.

Plans for new outdoor athletic facilities at North, the district's smallest high school campus, call for a football field, a track, a practice soccer field, two ball diamonds and tennis courts. They are part of nearly $12.5 million in upgrades planned for the school as part of the $370 million bond issue approved by voters in 2008.