Budget cuts could cost paraprofessional positions in Tonganoxie schools

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TONGANOXIE, Kan. -- The fallout from budget cuts to Kansas’ education system continues.

School board members in Tonganoxie held a special meeting on Thursday night in light of potential job cuts pertaining to positions held by tutors and classroom aides. The meeting, held at Tonganoxie High School, grew spirited at times.

What's at stake for families of students in Tonganoxie Public Schools is classroom instruction and student support. Paraprofessionals employed by the district -- classroom aides and tutors -- may see their jobs eliminated soon.

“We’ve got kids who need paraprofessionals every day in the hallways, in the classroom, and in the lunchroom at the elementary school,” John Morgan, a parent of students in the district, said.

One by one, parents, concerned about classroom size and potential cuts that could come down the road, voiced their opinions. That included Francie Campbell, who pointed out the essential roles paraprofessionals perform.

“I don't think it's a good idea,” Campbell said. “We need our paraprofessionals. If we're going to increase the class size for these teachers, and take away their funding, for their money to support their classroom, I think we need to reevaluate our priorities.”

Tonganoxie Schools Superintendent Lyn Rantz refuses to blame Governor Sam Brownback specifically for the shortfall in funding. In February, the Kansas governor signed $45 million in budget cuts toward education in the Sunflower State.

Rantz and other board members voted in favor of a three-percent property tax hike, which would benefit schools in Tonganoxie. That move will require approval from local voters.

“I believe we want to provide a really good education for their kids,” Rantz told FOX 4 News. “I believe at this point, we're put in a very difficult situation because of state aid that's being reduced.”

One school board members commented that he could foresee other unpopular financial cuts coming in the near future.

Parents attending the meeting were pleased to see the board vote in favor of reinstating ninth grade sports programs. School board leaders have drawn heat from the public after cutting those programs last week.

The special election will be held sometime during the month of June. As of Thursday’s meeting, school board leaders didn’t have an exact date.