TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas schools are set to receive 615 million dollars in education funding over the next few years. In 2018, a plan was passed that gave 525 million in funding. In 2019, the legislature passed a bill that added an additional 90 million in funding for the next four years.
For educators, this money could make a big impact. While the numbers vary, it’s said that teachers can spend upwards of $500 per school year on supplies and necessities for their classroom. The hope is that the additional funding for education will go directly to the classrooms.
Tammy is a 6th grade teacher in a low-income area of Kansas. She has been teaching for 27 years.
“I’m their safe space for 7 hours a day,” says Tammy. “I want them to have what they need.”
Tammy estimates that she spends about $500 dollars per year making her classroom comfortable and providing supplies. She says many of her students’ parents can’t afford to get every supply on the list. She adds that other students lose their supplies and need replacements. But Tammy says lack of funding for supplies is just the beginning, schools are losing the funding that provides free and reduced lunch.
“Population-wise, we still have that over 50% of our students are on free and reduced lunch but yet they’ve cut back,” says Tammy.
One of Tammy’s greatest concerns is a lack of social workers available in schools. In Tammy’s school, there is only one social worker for a building full of at-risk youth.
“A sixth-grader unloaded on me today. She and her family are looking at probably moving in to a shelter and moving away from their dad,” explains Tammy. “My one social worker is stretched so thin, she was already with a student and had two students lined up before she could even get with the student that was talking to me and it was already the end of the day.”
Tammy says that it is common for her students to be dealing with hunger, pain, and frustration that stems from their home-life.
“I can’t teach them fractions when they’re worried about where they’re going to be tonight and if they’re going to be in a shelter or at a relatives house. There’s far more important things on their mind and it’s just really really hard,” she adds.
Chris Cindric spent her career as a school psychologist and understand the need to protect students.
“I retired and went back three times because no one could find a school psychologist,” says Chris.
Chris now serves as the Board President for a non-profit group, Kansas Families for Education. The group raises funds that go directly to teachers through grants as well as funds to support bi-partisan Kansas politicians that are working to fund education.
“No one goes into education to get rich, it’s really to help students. I mean, mine are grown, but I want every student to have what my kids had,” adds Chris.
Kansas Families for Education holds regular fundraisers and looks for donations from the community. The group has also created a petition for signatures called “Stand with Teachers”. They hope to use the signatures as a reminder to legislatures that Kansas schools need funding and Kansas teachers need support.
“The expectations that have been put on teachers have gone up considerably. The workload has gone up considerably…and we’re burned out,” says Tammy.