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Budget Deficit In Olathe Schools Means Less Mentoring For First-Year Teachers

Sam Zeff

Olathe Public Schools is facing a $2 million dollar budget deficit this year.

To close most of that, the Kansas districtis laying off 80 people.

But the district also is cutting a program for rookie teachers.

For several years, first-year teachers in Olathe schools had a mentor just down the hall.

The mentors helped with everything from classroom management to the most efficient ways to make copies.

Deputy Superintendent Alison Banikowski says these building mentors played an important role.

“We certainly know mentoring is very important for individuals to not only stay in the profession but to be outstanding educators as quickly as possible," Banikowski says.

Banikowski says cutting this program will save the district about $75,000 a year.

That doesn't mean teachers in Olathe will go without any mentoring. The state requires mentoring for all first-year teachers, and up until two years ago,  provided funds for those programs, says Banikowski. But those funds were cut by the state.

"However, the requirement has not gone away. Every new educator in the state of Kansas in order to get a full license has to have a mentor in their first year," she says.

Banikowski says they do have district wide mentors who travel building to building, but they won’t be able to spend nearly as much time with new teachers.

Olathe schools Superintendent Marlin Berry blamed the new block grant funding scheme in Kansas for the district's budget woes. The block grants essentially freeze funding for districts for the next two years. Berry says while the budget is frozen, expenses are not.

"We have a number of contracts like bus transportation, our SRO (school resource officer) contract went up, some of our licensing fee contracts for technology went up," he says. "So if your revenue is frozen and your costs are going up you have to find a way to account for that and that means cuts."

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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