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Shawnee Mission School District Says They Will Not Close At End Of Month

Sam Zeff
KCUR 89.3

While many school districts in Kansas are preparing plans for a possible shutdown by the state Supreme Court, the Shawnee Mission School District in Johnson County, Kansas, says it will be open on July 1.

Superintendent Jim Hinson says he’s making no contingency plans in case the high court says schools must cease operating.

"We will be open on July 1 and we will start on time in August," says Hinson.

The Supreme Court ruled the Legislature failed to solve the inequity that exists between rich and poor districts. If the problem isn’t cured by month’s end, the Court has said, public schools can’t spend or raise money.

But Hinson says Shawnee Mission has already raised local tax money that’s budgeted for July and beyond.

He says will spend that money on programs for summer meals and special education. Those programs receive federal money and the district could run afoul of the federal government if they don't operate, Hinson says.

Hinson says he has enough money in the bank to operate the district until September 1.

This is a different approach to the school funding decision than most other school districts in the state.

The Olathe district says it's making plans in case the high court shuts down public schools.

"Many kids will be directly impacted," wrote Olathe board member Amy Martin in a Kansas Association of School Boards blog post. "Consider driver education, summer meals, band camps, transcript requests, and outside groups that rent our facilities."

In the Manhattan school district board member Aaron Estabrook says school officials are meeting with community members. "This is real," he says. "We're sending out the alarm without being alarmist."

Eastabrook says the Manhattan district feeds 300 homeless children a day and says the district will see if those kids could be fed somewhere else in the city, such as on the Kansas State University campus.

Kansas City, Kansas, Superintendent Cynthia Lane says she's also making contingency plans, but predicts if schools are closed by the high court, the shut down will be short lived. "No one in our state wants to see kids at home when they should be at school. It’s too important to the students. It’s too important our economy.”

Of course, right now no one knows what the final order from the justices may be or even if the Legislature will try to fix the problem.

On Wedensday, Gov. Sam Brownback issued an unexpected statement after the Legislature adjourned. There was no mention of a special session for lawmakers to address the equity issue. All Brownback said was that he would "respond aggressively and appropriately to any action taken by the Kansas Supreme Court to close our schools."

Sam Zeff  covers education for KCUR and is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend. Follow him on Twitter @SamZeff.

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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