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Schools in Kansas closing early due to $800 million state budget deficit

By Andrew V. Pestano
Schools in Kansas closing early due to $800 million state budget deficit
Kansas schools will begin closing early for the summer due to an $800 million budget deficit created by income-tax cuts established by Gov. Sam Brownback. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI. | License Photo

TOPEKA, Kan., May 4 (UPI) -- Several Kansas schools will begin closing early for the summer due to an $800 million budget deficit created by income-tax cuts established by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Dozens of schools in the state have already eliminated or cut programs. At least eight school districts lost funding this fiscal year because of state tax collections were lower than expected.

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The Republican governor labelled his heavy 2012 and 2013 income tax reductions as "an experiment," aiming to end the income tax altogether. Brownback and the Republican-controlled legislature said the tax cuts would increase economic activity that would compensate for missing state revenue.

The benefits expected by the Republican politicians have not been seen, but larger revenue losses have been. Brownback and his supporters claim the benefits need more time to materialize.

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School district Twin Valley will close almost two weeks earlier. Haven School District is closing five days earlier, saving about $4,000 per day.

"We felt we didn't have a choice," superintendent of Twin Valley schools Janet Neufeld said. "It's not good for kids, it's not good for families... but we're trying to keep the ship from sinking."

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Other methods the government is attempting to balance the budget include a $1 billion pension-bond sale and reducing the state's highway fund by $130 million.

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"There have been times when things were tight, but this is the absolute worst I've ever seen it," superintendent of Skyline Public Schools Mike Sanders said.

Schools are expected to have decreased school years for the next fiscal year. School districts are required to have 1,116 hours of class per year as per state law.

Schools in the city of McLouth will close four days earlier this year, but will have exceeded the hour requirement by about 60 hours.

"We've had fewer snow days than we've had traditionally, so student contact days are remaining on par with what we've had in the past," a superintendent in McLouth said.

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