A Wichita Eagle reporter revealed soft support for school choice with a story earlier this week about how longer school days were forcing a 6-year-old’s family to cut back on things like Lego camp and YMCA basketball. The news story blamed budget challenges for a Wichita USD 457 Board of Education decision to shave days off the school calendar by adding a half hour to each school day.
Eagle editors, in an editorial, doubled down on the paper’s (unsupported) theory that a longer school year calendar would require cuts to “something else that is important.” The Eagle editorial reads, “..Going back to the previous school schedule, or something similar, would increase school costs. And that could mean having to cut something else that is important.”
That depends on the meaning of the word “important.”
Extending the school day and shortening the calendar year saved the district $3 million, but Wichita board of education members could save triple what they say they need by simply matching what other districts spend on administration.
The Wichita School District spent $1,224 per student on administration last year. Shawnee Mission spent only $1,022 per student on administration. That $202 in savings per student times the 47,202 students in the Wichita district would equal $9.5 million in savings. Much of the savings would come from eliminating management. Wichita has one manager per 135 students. Shawnee Mission has one manager per 206 students. The Wichita district could eliminate 122 managers, be on par with the Shawnee Mission School District, and have the money necessary to shorten the school day.
Of course, no matter what Wichita district officials decide, the area students and families who benefit from longer class days and the students and families who long for shorter class days will all be stuck with whatever the school board decides based solely on imaginary geographic boundary lines.