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Community holds rally outside of Lawrence Public Schools ahead of budget meeting

Protest outside of Lawrence Public Schools
Posted at 6:27 PM, Mar 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-29 03:48:04-04

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Community members gathered outside of the Lawrence Public School headquarters on Monday as the district's Board of Education decides where to make cuts to its budget.

Dozens of people gathered outside of the building with signs and yelled chants

The chants included, "When public education is under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back."

According to the district, its General Fund and LOB fund had an estimated shortfall totaling between $3.2 million and $3.85 million.

It also saw a $1.7 million loss in funding due to decreasing enrollment in virtual learning.

At one point they were considering closing some schools, which has since been taken off the table after an outcry from the community.

Those same community members trying to protect the school libraries as administrators place them in their cross-hairs in the budget battle at LPS.

"I mean libraries, I think are like the heart of a school," Grace Howerton, a third-grade teacher at LPS said. "I mean, you think about like when you fall in love with books, that's where you go as a kid to like, grab the books and I have kids in my class that literally were like, cuddled books, just because they love them so much. And they're like, I found this out my library."

The district unveiled last week putting a dozen librarians on the chopping block leaving only six for entire district.

"We all were shocked at that number. And at first, I thought we were reading the spreadsheet wrong," Fallon Farokhi, a library media specialist at Sunset Hill Elementary School said.

The potential savings would be just over $600,000.

"But for the immediate term, we do need to make cuts and the idea of distributing that across all programs, across all positions and all people so that no one program or position bears the burden of that," Alicia Erickson, founder of Save our Schools 497 said.  

At Monday's board meeting superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis, who now is a finalist for the same job in Montgomery, Alabama, reiterated how challenging it is find to millions of dollars to cut. 

"These are extremely tough discussions to have, and even greater, tougher decisions for this board to make," Lewis said.

During public comment, several argued for school librarians.

Board members acknowledged that when it's all said and done, it's inevitable people will lose their jobs.

"I would also let you know that I appreciate, I thank you for your service in the time with our district and we all have to hope that moving forward, we make better decisions financially," Kay Emerson, an LPS board member said.  

Ultimately the board passed a proposal librarians drafted that would eliminate two positions versus a dozen. It would save the district more than $240,000.

To make up for the rest, leaders will have to look to cost-cutting measures when it comes to learning coaches and administrators.

The board will consider recommendations at their next meeting.