Updated Lawrence school district budget data shows school closures would save less than slashing programs

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Updated data from the Lawrence school district shows that a plan that includes closing or repurposing five schools would save the district less money than a plan that closes no schools but makes deep cuts to programs.

Option 1 would save an estimated $6.5 million over the next two years — not $7.8 million, as previously stated. Option 3, a plan that closes no schools but makes deep cuts to programs, would save $6.7 million within the current year, according to the new documents.

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Both plans would reduce nearly 100 full-time staff positions, but Option 3 would cut 95, compared to 99 estimated in Option 1, according to the new executive summary.

The district must patch a budget shortfall estimated between $3.2 and $3.85 million, but the school board wants to cut closer to $7 million to begin rebuilding low contingency funds and to improve staff pay.

Committees and district staff have worked for months on options to cut costs, and staff boiled the list down to three packages of options for an equity impact analysis, held Wednesday. But Thursday evening, the district announced that some of the data used for that analysis was inaccurate.

“The data on the line item list of proposed budget reductions was correct, just incomplete pending selections being made,” district spokesperson Julie Boyle said in an email Friday night. “When BPEC (Budget and Program Evaluation Committee) and ELT (Executive Leadership Team) selections were made and combined into options 1 and 2 for the equity analysis, staff had not completed calculating the effects of the boundary scenarios on staff FTE (full-time equivalent) reductions and savings. Those calculations were completed on Thursday and changed the staff FTE and savings data shared on materials used during Wednesday’s equity analysis.”

The updated documents show the three options, and the new results of Wednesday’s equity impact analyses for each one. Those are as follows:

Option 1: $6.5 (million) estimated savings over two years

  • 5 building closures
  • 16 of the 17 school boundaries will be impacted
  • Reduction of 24 programs
  • Estimated 99 reduction of FTE
  • Realized savings over 2 school years (2022-23 and 2023-24)
  • An additional $1.5 could be saved through program reductions

Equity Analysis Results: the extent to which the proposal provides/ensures

  • Access: Very Little
  • Representation: Not at all to very little
  • Meaningful Participation: Not at all to very little
  • High Outcomes: Not at all to very little

Option 2: $5.8 million estimated savings

  • 2 building closures
  • 9 out of 17 school boundaries will be impacted
  • Reduction of 32 programs
  • Estimated 84 reduction of FTE
  • Realized savings in current school year
  • Additional savings could be realize through closing schools or program reductions

Equity Analysis Results: the extent to which the proposal provides/ensures

  • Access: To a great extent to somewhat
  • Representation: Somewhat
  • Meaningful Participation: Somewhat
  • High Outcomes: Somewhat to very little

Option 3: $6.7 million estimated savings

  • 0 building closures
  • Reduction of 34 programs
  • Estimated 95 reduction of FTE
  • Realized savings in current school year
  • Additional savings could be realized with closing schools

Equity Analysis Results: the extent to which the proposal provides/ensures

  • Access: Somewhat to very little
  • Representation: Somewhat to very little
  • Meaningful Participation: Somewhat to very little
  • High Outcomes: Somewhat to very little

Boyle said staff verified the calculations on Friday.

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The rest of the updated data is available below:

Options-Updated

The district is also extending the deadline to participate in a ThoughtExchange online survey, open to all community members who want to give input on the district’s budget planning process. The new deadline will be midnight Wednesday, Feb. 16. That survey is available at this link. Those results will be shared with the board and public on Thursday, Feb. 17 in agenda materials for the board’s Feb. 21 special meeting, Boyle said.

The school board is set to meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14 and Feb. 21 to hear further public comment on the cost-cutting proposals.

Feb. 21 is the deadline for board members to decide whether they want to publish resolutions that give the district the authority to hold public hearings on any school closures, Superintendent Anthony Lewis said Wednesday evening. Those resolutions must be published for two weeks ahead of public hearings, which would likely be held March 21-March 23.

Board members must make the final decision on whether to close any schools in mid-April, Lewis said.

Meetings are at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, and livestreamed on YouTube. School board agendas are posted at this link, usually the Thursday evening prior to the Monday meeting. The Feb. 14 agenda was available Friday.

The results of Wednesday’s equity impact analysis were also posted with the board meeting agenda. They can be found at this link.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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