Kansas Budget Stories
Valley Center, Kansas
Fewer teachers and support staff than ever before
I am a school counselor with over 400 students in my caseload—and that is small compared to some of my cohorts who have over 600. We are lucky to get to deliver the important guidance counseling curriculum to our students here on a weekly basis. I present age appropriate lessons to support student academic learning, career development, as well as personal/social/emotional counseling to all students and staff. We teach a strong character education program that includes problem solving, critical thinking and bullying prevention. I also serve as the test coordinator for my building, which in many places is a full-time position by itself. We talk about having a generation who has been educated and now can’t find employment. It could be even worse for the next generation due to limited resources, huge class sizes, and fewer teachers and support staff than ever before in my 20+ years as an educator.
Kansas City, Kansas
Students hurt by reduction in para-educators’ work hours
I am a para-educator in a middle school that reduced my hours by one hour a day, so I have taken a cut in salary. This is affecting the students. Paras monitor hallways, the cafeteria, and playgrounds to help keep the kids safe. Often, we are the first and last person to see a student each day. We help students with their lockers in the mornings, between classes, tutor before and after school, make sure the kids get on their buses, and calm them when they are. We know the neighborhood and the kids because we live in the community. Students often confide in us when something is bothering them or they need more support. Being cut an hour a day does not give us the time to do tutoring, help students with their lockers, or help them sort out problems they are having. Some paras are taking a second job because they cannot afford to pay their bills. Children of paras who are single parents are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches because they are living at the poverty level. A lot of good, devoted paras are quitting this profession and seeking other jobs. Our students are being hurt because now we have many new paras that don’t know the students.
Largest class sizes I can remember
Valley Center, Kansas
We have the largest class sizes I can remember: 23 for kindergarten, 27 for primary grades, and up to 30 for middle school and high school. Schools no longer have counselors, librarians or nurses in each building. In some cases, staff is required to travel between buildings on a daily basis, or plan only one day per week in buildings where they serve over 400 to 700 students.
Taxpayers unwilling to spend as much on schools as pizzas
We are a small, rural district with two K-12 complexes (eight to nine buildings) approximately 20 miles apart with a combined athletics program. The district wanted to build a single complex in the middle of the district, which would have cost the average taxpayer approximately $15 a month—about as much as a delivery pizza—with land-owning farmers paying a little more (how much would depend on the size of the farm). The taxpayers voted it down.
The building I work in was built in 1921, which makes it one of the oldest buildings in the state that is still functioning. My students don’t feel like their well-being is considered by the adults in their communities. They watch the gridlock and political posturing in Washington and realize nothing is going to change.
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