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McPhersonSentinel - McPherson, KS
  • Local districts weigh in on budget lawsuit

  • Walt Chappell, a former member of the Kansas State Board of Education, filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court this month opposing a school finance lawsuit.
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  • Walt Chappell, a former member of the Kansas State Board of Education, filed a brief with the Kansas Supreme Court this month opposing a school finance lawsuit.
    In his brief, Chappell said school districts don’t need more money and could save almost $1 billion by consolidating, making teachers work longer hours and cutting funding for low-income students, according to the Associated Press.
    Randy Watson, superintendent of McPherson School District, and Bill Seidl, superintendent of Canton-Galva School District, disagree. Watson said while schools technically could do all those things, the cost to education would outweigh the financial savings.
    “Schools aren’t just about being efficient,” Watson said.
    Watson said schools across the state have done a lot of consolidating, such as Canton and Galva school districts becoming one district. He said consolidation cuts costs but also reduces the services schools can provide.
    Seidl said communities have certain expectations for schools, and it’s getting harder for schools to meet those expectations.
    “We have a responsibility to meet those needs, and I don’t know how we can do that with less,” Seidl said.
    Watson said staff salaries have been hit hardest by underfunding.
    “Kansas used to be ranked 37th in teacher pay,” Watson said. “We've dropped to the low forties.”
    Watson said asking teachers to work longer hours will reduce the appeal to new teachers.
    “If we’re going to produce good students, we need the best and brightest teaching them,” Watson said. “We’ll start seeing the best go somewhere else where the pay is better.”
    Watson also said cutting funding for low-income students undermines the purpose of public education. He said public schools need to make education affordable for everyone because better education leads to better job opportunities in the future.
    Seidl said he doesn’t know how Chappell came to his conclusion, but he said he thinks it’s due to a lack of understanding.
    “Talk is easy. Once you get into the budget and the responsibility we have, it’s a whole different ball game,” Seidl said. “From the district level, we’ve had to cut back about 16 percent in the last five years. That’s substantial when you talk about the rising cost of education.”
    Seidl said Canton-Galva school district was involved with the school funding lawsuit at one point, but dropped out because the district couldn’t afford it. Watson said he thinks the Supreme Court will rule in favor of the school districts.
    Senator Jay Emler, who represents McPherson County at the state legislature, also said during a visit to McPherson Friday he expects the court to rule in favor of schools.
    Page 2 of 2 - Contact Josh Arnett by email at jarnett@mcphersonsentinel.com and follow him on Twitter @ArnettSentinel.
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