KU deserves credit and thanks for keeping the paychecks flowing
photo by: Journal-World Photo Illustration
The University of Kansas and several other government entities and businesses in the Lawrence area deserve credit for how they are treating their employees during these trying times.
KU leaders came out relatively quickly to explain that employees of the university will continue to be paid, even though some may not be on campus for the foreseeable future because of KU’s decision to end in-person classes for the rest of the semester.
As the Journal-World reported last week, KU has told its employees that all salaried workers will continue to be paid their salary, while hourly workers will make an average of what they make during a two-week pay period.
This is extremely welcome news for the Lawrence economy. KU is the engine that turns the gears of the Lawrence economy, and so much would freeze up in Lawrence if thousands of KU workers suddenly lost their paychecks. The Lawrence economy still will be challenging during the virus disruptions, but KU has done its part to lessen the blow. It is what you would expect of an organization that really must be a strong leader if Lawrence will be successful today and into the future.
The Lawrence school district also has now made it clear that both its teachers, administrators and its hourly employees will be paid for the rest of the school year, despite all school buildings closing for the rest of the year, and all education shifting to some version of an online or continuous learning environment.
In her decision to close all school buildings in the state. Gov. Laura Kelly made reference to paying teachers and hourly employees, but her executive order was light on specifics and still left room for worry. Leaders of the Lawrence public school system eventually came forward to clarify that both salaried and hourly employees will be paid through the “end of the school year, according to their regular payroll schedule.”
Thus far, area school districts also are indicating employees will be paid through the end of the year. Based on the current situation, it would be both a shame and a sham if school employees don’t get paid what they were expected to during the school year. After all, there has been no debate by state leaders to send the school districts less money as a result of the virus outbreak. In that regard, public schools are facing less of financial crisis than many other industries and organizations. The public school districts already have received the state money, and the best thing they can do from a leadership standpoint is pay their employees so that those employees have the resources to continue to support businesses in their communities.
The Lawrence Public Library is in much the same situation. It is funded almost exclusively through property tax revenues. The money is already budgeted to pay employees, and the best community benefit is for the library to pay their employees, even while the library is closed. Library leaders have agreed to do that, and the community will benefit from it.
The situation is a little tougher for the city of Lawrence. It has closed its parks and recreation facilities into May. Those facilities employ a large number of part-time employees. For the most part, those employees’ wages are funded through the fees that residents pay for classes and and other such services. The city is experiencing revenue declines, but thus far have worked to keep those part-time employees on the payroll. The city has committed to keeping anyone who wants to continue working on the payroll for at least two weeks, doing other tasks, such as deep cleaning of facilities. Whether that can continue past the two weeks deserves further study. The city’s finances face significant disruption given their reliance on sales taxes. The city is going to need to get in a frugal mindset soon and reexamine many past spending decisions.
Finally, there are private businesses that deserve credit too. Hallmark Cards is perhaps the largest in the community. The company made the responsible public health decision to temporarily close its Lawrence plant that employs about 800 people. The company, though, immediately said it was prepared to fund two weeks of pay for all the workers. Yes, if the shutdown goes beyond too weeks, that does create worry. But businesses must do a delicate balancing act to treat their employees fairly but also ensure there is a solid company to return to once this mess is over.
However, we should make note and remember those who are trying their hardest to do the right thing by their employees.