Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman on Wednesday called on staff to prepare for a shutdown of public schools.
The implications of closing down the school system - Lawrence's second largest employer with about 1,800 employees - would be staggering, officials said.
Weseman said the district had funds to operate through July. Beyond that lies the unknown.
At a Supreme Court hearing Friday, justices ultimately could decide to shut off funding for schools in response to the Legislature's failure to meet the court's order requiring additional state aid to local districts. Weseman plans to join others in asking the court to make a few exceptions if the court decides to take this route.
The sought exceptions would include funds to make bond payments, pay for construction projects currently under way, utility payments, security costs, staff paychecks for July and August, and life, property, liability and self-funded health insurance.
The court has already suggested it would carve out some exceptions instead of imposing an absolute spending freeze.
But, in a worst-case scenario, the district would not have funds to educate students, pay vendors or employees - including about 880 teachers and other certified staff, Weseman said.
Would district employees be insured or paid in a worst-case scenario?
"I don't know right now that we can guarantee anything until we see what the ruling will be," board member Sue Morgan said.
Some students, such as those with special needs, are mandated service by the federal government. Not meeting their needs would leave the district vulnerable to lawsuits, Weseman said. And that is just one example of the many complications that would ensue, he said.
The district's payroll is about $35 million. Not paying employees would create a crisis, Weseman said.
"The district could be sued in a lot of different ways," he said. "That's what I'm trying to minimize right now."
The district contracts with hundreds of vendors. From April 26 to May 9, for example, the district paid about $630,000 to vendors, including Advance Commercial, Borders Bookstore, Checker's, Dominos Pizza, Hy-Vee, Laird Noller, Pet World and Radio Shack.
Without funds, the district couldn't make similar payments to providers of goods and services. Weseman said he must plan for the possibility the district would be unable to pay for telephone or Internet service, electricity or other basics.
"There are implications to shutting the water off," he said. "That could cause serious damage to the system."
For some, school closure is not only unprecedented, it's unfathomable.
"It's just unthinkable that they would shut the schools down," board president Leonard Ortiz said. "I just can't imagine that they would take that step. If they do, I think we've got a real crisis on our hands."
More about school finance
- Webcast of live arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court (requires Windows Media Player)
- Brief of the Montoy suit (.pdf)
- Timeline of events in school finance lawsuit
- 6News video: School finance bill to face court
- Plaintiffs: School finance bill fails grade (06-13-06)
- State wants high court to dismiss school suit (06-02-06)
- Legislature approves school finance plan (05-10-06)
- Chat with Bob Corkins, Kansas Education Commissioner (02-02-06)
- House roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan (07-07-05)
- Supt. Weseman's contingency plan (07-06-05)
- More about school finance »
- Conference Committee on Senate Bill 549
- House bill info
- Senate bill info
- Kansas public schools cost study
- Kansas public schools cost study executive summary
- Public Education Finances 2004 (.pdf)
- Senate roll call on $148.4 million school finance plan
- Supreme Court's Show Cause Order (07-02-05)
- Supreme Court's Order Denying Extension (.pdf)
- Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)
- Supplemental Note on Resolution No. 1603 (.pdf)