The Save Our Schools 497 group is calling for the Lawrence school board to make deeper cuts to district administration and save librarians’ jobs.
The advocates, who joined forces in January to push for the Lawrence school district to keep neighborhood schools open, have kept working and brainstorming their own ideas as the school board has continued to mull budget cuts amounting to about $6.41 million.
SOS 497 is inviting the community to a rally starting at 5 p.m. Monday, March 28 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. At that meeting, school board members are expected to decide on the final cuts they will make to try to balance a multimillion-dollar budget deficit, provide for staff raises and replenish depleted cash reserves.
The school board in February directed district administrators to prioritize budget cuts by those that will minimize harm to students. One of the largest cost-cutting proposals that district administrators are recommending is one that would eliminate 12 librarian jobs, leaving only six, for an estimated savings of $605,282.
“The stated goal throughout this process has been to enact cuts that are least detrimental to students whenever possible,” SOS 497 founder Alicia Erickson said in a news release Thursday. “We feel a plan that essentially leaves district administration with no substantive cuts at the expense of a dozen librarians is the antithesis of that goal.”
The group calls for the district to revert to an earlier proposal, which would have included a 10% reduction to library and media, for an estimated savings of $153,300.
“In order to align the district’s stated goals with its expected outcomes, Save Our Schools 497 calls on the school board to direct the district to include the proposal for reducing an additional 2.5 central administration positions for an estimated $275,000 savings (based on an average salary of $110,000),” the release stated. “This is in addition to the current $400,000 ‘restructure’ proposal, which is estimated to be 3.5 positions.”
In addition, SOS 497 calls for salary reductions for all executive director, director and assistant director positions, as well as a freeze to all administrative pay raises.
“These cuts would remain in effect until the budget is balanced and classified and teacher pay is aligned with neighboring schools or jobs. These reductions would be structured similarly to tiered salary adjustments made at the University of Kansas in the height of the pandemic (see attached chart), and would generate an estimated $178,000 in savings. Most salary adjustments would range from 2-5%.”
Questions surrounding administration and the budget come less than a month after the school board learned from a Kansas Association of School Boards study that of Kansas’ 18 largest districts by enrollment, Lawrence — with a K-12 enrollment of 11,150 and 20 central office administrators — has the third highest ratio of administrators to students.
Some school board members during a budget work session on Tuesday also asked district staff to look for deeper cuts within administration.
Learn more about SOS 497 by visiting the group’s Facebook page.