Wichita school district to close early, will impact one WSU education major

Chance Swaim

“Don’t get me fired,” said Alex Crow, an education major at Wichita State who works in the Wichita school district. “Everyone is really nervous right now.”

Next school year, USD 259 faces cost increases of up to $30 million and no additional state funding. In an effort to save money, the Kansas Board of Education approved ending the school year early this year. Instead of ending May 24, a Tuesday, the school year will end May 20, the Friday before, the district announced in a news release Monday.

The cuts have put Wichita teachers on edge about being quoted by media because of fear for their jobs, but Crow feels that’s part of the problem. Crow has worked for USD 259 for five years — the first three as a high school dance coach at Wichita High School North, the last two as a dance coach, substitute teacher and paraprofessional. 

According to the news release, May 23 will be used as a district in-service day and May 24 will be a non-teaching duty day.

Most of the money saved will be from the cost of transportation and substitutes, like Crow.

“As a substitute, I don’t get to work summers,” Crow said. “But in those two days, that’s $200 I’m not getting that I thought would be an option. 

“I’m not subbing to make money, but when you have expectations, it’s disappointing when things fall through, you know what I mean? Especially as a full-time student.”

The “calendar revision” became a possibility because the district did not have any snow days this school year. The district will exceed a 1,116-hour school year, the number of hours required by state law.

Shortening the school year by two school days will save the district about $400,000. The district hopes to apply that money to the remaining $12.1 million that needs to be cut from the budget for next year, the release said. 

Teacher pay and schedules already in place will not be affected by the calendar change, the release said. 

Beyond her substitute roles, Crow also worries about her position as dance coach at North High, where she danced in high school and graduated in 2010. 

“The arts, dance, band, music and sports — they’re all in danger. At least that’s the perception,” she said. 

Crow said she doesn’t want to seem too doom-and-gloom about the Kansas education budget, but she doesn’t want to be naïve.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Crow said, “I love the district. I love the teachers, I love the students and I love the administrators — I think the district does a great job with what they are given.

“But the state budget as it relates to the school districts is a lot like telling an engineer to build a building without any wood. Like, ‘here’s a hammer—good luck, kid.’”

As an education major, Crow said she’s anxious. She plans to graduate in 2018 and teach middle school science. She’s from Kansas. She loves Kansas, she said. She eventually wants to teach here. 

“I do, I really do,” Crow said. “But when someone like me, who was born and raised here and has been involved for five years is being forced to reconsider whether teaching is even a viable career path in the state of Kansas or whether I should move where I’ll have the proper support — I think that’s a sign that there are some issues.”

Crow said she thinks the budget cuts from this year and next year will affect the number of education majors at WSU.

“Education majors are already scarce because teachers don’t get paid that much,” Crow said. “No one gets into teaching for the money, but these budget problems don’t make the profession any more attractive. It just worries me, is all.

“Everything is up in the air. Everyone is scared about losing their jobs, scared to say anything that will get them fired — everyone’s trying to watch their backs.”