• From WPS Superintendent Kelly Bielefeld

     

    A recent guest column in the Wichita Eagle made baseless claims about the legality of the current school closing process being considered by the Wichita Board of Education, and called in to question the integrity of the data used to inform the recommendation made to the BOE. There is no question that this recommendation is difficult to consider. However, the error-filled claims only serve to confuse and mislead citizens who care about public education and Wichita schools. I want to set the record straight.

     

    Whether you consider headcount or FTE, there has been an enrollment decline that requires us to consider how to operate our business most efficiently, provide the best-possible educational opportunities for all of our students, and be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. Facts are provided below to correct the misleading claims. Our district has been, and will remain, committed to transparency throughout this process.

     

    Read Superintendent Bielefeld's opinion piece that was published in The Wichita Eagle on February 25, 2024.

  • FACT: Wichita Public Schools follows the law. (FALSE CLAIM: The process is illegal)

  • FACT: Wichita Public Schools enrollment is lower than it was 20 years ago. (FALSE CLAIM: Twenty years ago there were 40,068 students, so there’s no enrollment decline.)

  • FACT: The district is transparent with financial records. (FALSE CLAIM: The district is short $42 million and must rush to close schools without opening financial records.)

  • FACT: The district faces a $42 million budget gap in preparing a balanced budget for 2024-25. (FALSE CLAIM: The district ‘s claim of a $42 million budget deficit for 2024-25 is grossly exaggerated.)

  • FACT: More than 270 position vacancies exist and the district is unable to hire qualified individuals to fill those positions. (FALSE CLAIM: The district doesn’t have a staffing shortage, this claim is grossly exaggerated.)

  • FACT: The district’s currently identified deferred maintenance needs total $1.2 billion. (FALSE CLAIM: The district’s claim of $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance is grossly exaggerated.)

  • FACTS : Little Early Childhood Center is a vibrant and functioning PreK center; and this building closing process is not like the 2012 boundary change process. (FALSE CLAIM: This process will be like the process in 2012 when “Bryant, Emerson, Little and Mueller elementary schools, plus Northeast and Southeast high schools” were shut down, staff and students scattered, and buildings still in use.)

  • FACT: The district has 9 “special program schools” and 6 “special program locations. (FALSE CLAIM: These 15 schools have the highest cost per pupil, yet none of them were considered to be closed.)

  • FACT: There are other options.

  • FACT: The district could choose to do anything, but not everything. (FALSE CLAIM: The district has misused funds.)