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Superintendent encouraged by session, asks Legislature to comply with court order

With legislative committees returning to Topeka this week, Hutchinson USD 308 Superintendent Dr. Shelly Kiblinger hopes legislators approve a constitutional plan to meet the state’s obligations to the state’s students and taxpayers.

Dr. Kiblinger said Tuesday she hopes legislators will act swiftly to keep schools open. Thursday, legislative committees will begin meeting ahead of the special legislative session, which begins on June 23. Legislators, she said, will have a second opportunity to pass a school finance formula that is constitutional.

“I am pleased the special session has been called,” Dr. Kiblinger said. “The public needs to remember the school finance issue was not initiated by the courts. The Gannon case began with a student named Gannon, others like him and their parents who are taxpayers. These families, together with boards of education, brought their complaint of an inadequate and unequitable school funding system forward to be heard by our state’s judicial system.

“While I do not want to see our schools closed due to an unconstitutional finance law, I applaud our Supreme Court justices and their willingness to make tough decisions for the long-term benefit of our students and taxpayers. It is now our legislators’ turn to do likewise.”

USD 308 is planning for district facilities to operate normally throughout the summer, including summer feeding sites, building cleaning and maintenance work and preparations for fall enrollment. However, in the unlikely event that schools close, the district will have a shutdown plan ready.

Dr. Kiblinger gave the USD 308 Board of Education a brief overview of initial plans during its meeting Monday night. Those plans, which are still being formulated, would give the district some unusual flexibility. That flexibility would include:

  • Moving July payroll to July 7 from July 15 (a one-time move). District staff are paid only once a month, generally on the 15th of the month.
  • Defining “essential personnel”
  • Authorizing payment from cash balances for bids approved previously, contracted services, goods delivered, etc. without board approval as a payable

Moving up payday should get district hourly staff who worked in June their pay prior to any closure and meet federal Wage and Hour rules. The majority of district teachers took a lump sum payment for their summer pay and will receive that pay prior to any closure.

Should major changes occur that will disrupt district operations, parents and staff will be notified via SchoolMessenger, the district’s mass notification system.

Updates also will be posted for patrons on the district Facebook page www.facebook.com/usd308 and website at www.usd308.com.