The news is filled with stories about the success and struggles of the Kansas City, Missouri School District, but the metro area contains dozens of districts, each with its own story to tell.
The historically strong Shawnee Mission district is facing major budget challenges.
In recent years, the very conservative Kansas legislature has taken a hard line strategy to cut taxes and limit spending. This frugality and lower state revenue has resulted in less funding for schools. In the past 4 years, the Shawnee Mission District has seen budget reductions of $25 million. The district has responded by closing six schools since 2007 and laying off 400 staff members since 2009.
But things aren’t about to get easier anytime soon. Kansas schools have been receiving some extra money from part of a one-cent sales tax during the past few years, but that funding will end in June of 2013. And the state’s new tax plan will result in a $705 million budget shortfall by the end of June 2014.
Of course, Shawnee Mission follows the proceedings in Topeka carefully. And about eight years ago, the district hired lobbyist Stuart Little to make sure its voice was heard in the Capitol. Stuart Little recently took part in a town hall meeting to explain the district’s situation and political interests. The district streamed the meeting. It’s available to watch on their website.